Australian Police To Be Given "Sneak and Peek" Powers

Police and security agencies will be given unprecedented "sneak and peek" powers to search the homes and computers of suspects without their knowledge under legislation to go before Federal Parliament next week.
The extensive powers - which also give federal police the right to monitor communications equipment without an interceptions warrant - come amid growing public disquiet about counter-terrorism powers following the bungled handling of the Mohamed Haneef case.
Under the laws, officers from the federal police and other agencies would be able to execute "delayed notification warrants", allowing them to undertake searches, seize equipment and plant listening devices in businesses and homes.
Police and security officers will be able to assume false identities to gain entry and conduct the surreptitious searches.
But the person affected by the raid does not have to be informed for at least six months, and can remain in the dark for 18 months if the warrant is rolled over.
The warrant is to be issued by the head of a police service or security agency without the approval of a judicial officer. It can also be extended for more than 18 months with the sanction of the minister.
The lack of judicial oversight was justified by the Minister for Justice and Customs, David Johnston, on the grounds that a court or judicial officer might leak news of the warrant.
"I don't want to impugn anyone, but the security of these operations has to be pristine," Senator Johnston told the Herald.
Moreover, the warrant can be issued for any offence that carries a prison term of 10 years or more, despite a strong recommendation from a bipartisan Senate committee earlier this year that it only be used for investigations into terrorism, organised crime and "offences involving death or serious injury with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment".
The new powers have their genesis in a meeting of state, territory and federal police ministers two years ago to create uniform search warrants.
They are scheduled to be introduced to the Senate on Tuesday when Parliament resumes.
But they are likely to be scrutinised more heavily in the wake of the detention and subsequent dropping of terrorism-related charges against Dr Haneef.
The Greens senator Kerry Nettle said the handling of Dr Haneef's case served as a reminder that law enforcement and intelligence agencies made mistakes, and already had extensive and intrusive powers.

"Given the Haneef debacle, now is not the time to be giving more powers to the Australian Federal Police," she said.
The position of the Labor Opposition is unknown. The party did not return calls yesterday.
Federal police say they need the powers because current rules mean suspects are tipped off that they are under investigation.
"It then allows associates unknown to the police to destroy or relocate evidence or activities to other premises not known to police," the Deputy Commissioner John Lawler told a Senate committee earlier this year. "It often prevents the full criminality of those involved being known."
The bill also deals with "controlled operations" - undercover operations where federal agents are permitted to undertake criminal activity in order to further their investigations.
Federal authorities will have far greater scope to undertake such operations and will no longer need approval from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The bill provides for immunity not only to the undercover police or security officer involved but also civilian informants.
For the first time it also allows foreign police and intelligence agencies to take part in undercover operations and to use false identities.

Sphere: Related Content

Soviet bomb from World War II Found in Berlin

Construction workers unearthed a 1,000-kilo Soviet bomb from World War II in a Berlin suburb, forcing authorities to evacuate more than 4,000 people before defusing it, police say.
The bomb, which was buried about four metres underground, was found in the Lichterfelde district, on the capital's southern edge.
About eight hours later, specialists defused it, removing two detonators.
People in the area were evacuated from their homes as a precaution, police spokeswoman Miriam Tauchmann said.
Services on a nearby commuter train line also were disrupted for several hours.
Unexploded bombs, relics of Allied bombardments before Nazi Germany's surrender in May 1945, are still found regularly in the country.

Sphere: Related Content

Belzec or Auschwitz - Communist China Had Them Too

A hysteria of sorts has been generated by reports that some of China's products lack quality control. Some cat food has been tainted. A few cell phone batteries have blown up. Cough syrup contained stuff that makes you sick. And so on. In response, the Chinese government actually executed its regulatory head of food and product safety, Zheng Xiaoyu.
How very strange this last point is! In the West, we long ago gave up the idea that these people are actually supposed to carry out their jobs and should be personally responsible for their failure to do so.
What is most striking about these criticisms is how historically insular they appear in light of the modern history of China. This is a subject that is deeply painful, horrifying in its detail, highly instructive in helping us understand politics — and also puts into perspective these reports of recent troubles in China. It's a scandal, in fact, that few Westerners are even aware, or, if they are aware, they are not conscious, of the bloody reality that prevailed in China between the years 1949 and 1976, the years of communist rule by Mao Zedong.
How many died as a result of persecutions and the policies of Mao? Perhaps you care to guess? Many people over the years have attempted to guess. But they have always underestimated. As more data rolled in during the 1980s and 1990s, and specialists have devoted themselves to investigations and estimates, the figures have become ever more reliable. And yet they remain imprecise. What kind of error term are we talking about? It could be as low as 40 million. It could be as high as 100 million or more. In the Great Leap Forward from 1959 to 1961 alone, figures range between 20 million to 75 million. In the period before, 20 million. In the period after, tens of millions more.
As scholars in the area of mass death point out, most of us can't imagine 100 dead or 1000. Above that, we are just talking about statistics: they have no conceptual meaning for us, and it becomes a numbers game that distracts us from the horror itself. And there is only so much ghastly information that our brains can absorb, only so much blood we can imagine. And yet there is more to why China's communist experiment remains a hidden fact: it makes a decisive case against government power, one even more compelling than the cases of Russia or Germany in the 20th century.
The horror was foreshadowed in a bloody civil war following the Second World War. After some nine million people died, the communists emerged victorious in 1949, with Mao as the ruler. The land of Lao-Tzu (rhyme, rhythm, peace), Taoism (compassion, moderation, humility), and Confucianism (piety, social harmony, individual development) was seized by the strangest import to China ever: Marxism from Germany via Russia. It was an ideology that denied all logic, experience, economic law, property rights, and limits on the power of the state on grounds that these notions were merely bourgeois prejudices, and what we needed to transformed society was a cadre with all power to transform all things.
It's bizarre to think about it, really: posters of Marx and Lenin in China, of all places, and rule by an ideology of robbery, dictatorship, and death that did not come to an end until 1976. So spectacular has the transformation been in the last 25 years that one would hardly know that any of this ever happened, except that the Communist Party is still running the place while having tossed out the communist part.
The experiment began in the most bloody way possible following the second world war, when all Western eyes were focused on matters at home and, to the extent there was any foreign focus, it was on Russia. The "good guys" had won the war in China, or so we were led to believe in times when communism was the fashion.
The communization of China took place in the usual three stages: purge, plan, and scapegoat. First there was the purge to bring about communism. There were guerillas to kill and land to nationalize. The churches had to be destroyed. The counterrevolutionaries had to be put down. The violence began in the country and spread later to the cities. All peasants were first divided into four classes that were considered politically acceptable: poor, semi poor, average, and rich. Everyone else was considered a landowner and targeted for elimination. If no landowners could be found, the "rich" were often included in this group. The demonized class was ferreted out in a country-wide series of "bitterness meetings" in which people turned in their neighbors for owning property and being politically disloyal. Those who were so deemed were immediately executed along with those who sympathized with them.
The rule was that there had to be at least one person killed per village. The numbers killed is estimated to be between one and five million. In addition, another four to six million landowners were slaughtered for the crime of being capital owners. If anyone was suspected of hiding wealth, he or she was tortured with hot irons to confess. The families of the killed were then tortured and the graves of their ancestors looted and pillaged. What happened to the land? It was divided into tiny plots and distributed among the remaining peasants.

"There is only so much ghastly information that our brains can absorb, only so much blood we can imagine."
Then the campaign moved to the cities. The political motivations here were at the forefront, but there were also behavioral controls. Anyone who was suspected of involvement in prostitution, gambling, tax evasion, lying, fraud, opium dealing, or telling state secrets was executed as a "bandit." Official estimates put the number of dead at two million with another two million going to prison to die. Resident committees of political loyalists watched every move. A nighttime visit to another person was immediately reported and the parties involved jailed or killed. The cells in the prisons themselves grew ever smaller, with one person living in a space of about 14 inches. Some prisoners were worked death, and anyone involved in a revolt was herded with collaborators and they were all burned.
There was industry in the cities, but those who owned and managed them were subjected to ever tighter restrictions: forced transparency, constant scrutiny, crippling taxes, and pressure to offer up their businesses for collectivization. There were many suicides among the small- and medium-sized business owners who saw the writing on the wall. Joining the party provided only temporary respite, since 1955 began the campaign against hidden counterrevolutionaries in the party itself. A principle here was that one in ten party members was a secret traitor.
As the rivers of blood rose ever higher, Mao brought about the Hundred Flowers Campaign in two months of 1957, the legacy of which is the phrase we often hear: "Let a hundred flowers bloom." People were encouraged to speak freely and give their point of view, an opportunity that was very tempting for intellectuals. The liberalization was short lived. In fact, it was a trick. All those who spoke out against what was happening to China were rounded up and imprisoned, perhaps between 400,000 and 700,000 people, including 10 percent of the well-educated classes. Others were branded as right wingers and subjected to interrogation, reeducation, kicked out of their homes, and shunned.
But this was nothing compared with phase two, which was one of history's great central planning catastrophes. Following collectivization of land, Mao decided to go further to dictate to the peasants what they would grow, how they would grow it, and where they would ship it, or whether they would grow anything at all as versus plunge into industry. This would become the Great Leap Forward that would generate history's most deadly famine. Peasants were grouped into groups of thousands and forced to share all things. All groups were to be economically self-sufficient. Production goals were raised ever higher.
People were moved by the hundreds of thousands from where production was high to where it was low, as a means of boosting production. They were moved too from agriculture to industry. There was a massive campaign to collect tools and transform them into industrial skill. As a means of showing hope for the future, collectives were encouraged to have huge banquets and eat everything, especially meat. This was a way of showing one's belief that the next year's harvest would be even more bountiful.
Mao had this idea that he knew how to grow grain. He proclaimed that "seeds are happiest when growing together" and so seeds were sown at five to ten times their usual density. Plants died, the soil dried out, and the salt rose to the surface. To keep birds from eating grain, sparrows were wiped out, which vastly increased the number of parasites. Erosion and flooding became endemic. Tea plantations were turned to rice fields, on grounds that tea was decadent and capitalistic. Hydraulic equipment built to service the new collective farms didn't work and lacked any replacement parts. This led Mao to put new emphasis on industry, which was forced to appear in the same areas as agriculture, leading to ever more chaos. Workers were drafted from one sector to another, and mandatory cuts in some sectors was balanced by mandatory high quotas in another.
In 1957, the disaster was everywhere. Workers were growing too weak even to harvest their meager crops, so they died watching the rice rot. Industry churned and churned but produced nothing of any use. The government responded by telling people that fat and proteins were unnecessary. But the famine couldn't be denied. The black-market price of rice rose 20 to 30 times. Because trade had been forbidden between collectives (self-sufficiency, you know), millions were left to starve. By 1960, the death rate soared from 15 percent to 68 percent, and the birth rate plummeted. Anyone caught hoarding grain was shot. Peasants found with the smallest amount were imprisoned. Fires were banned. Funerals were prohibited as wasteful.
Villagers who tried to flee the countryside to the city were shot at the gates. Deaths from hunger reached 50 percent in some villages. Survivors boiled grass and bark to make soup and wandered the roads looking for food. Sometimes they banded together and raided houses looking for ground maize. Women were unable to conceive because of malnutrition. People in work camps were used for food experiments that led to sickness and death.

"Because trade had been forbidden between collectives (self-sufficiency, you know), millions were left to starve."
How bad did it get? 1968 an 18-year-old member of the Red Guard, Wei Jingsheng, took refuge with a family in a village of Anhui, and here he lived to write about what he saw:
"We walked along beside the village… Before my eyes, among the weeds, rose up one of the scenes I had been told about, one of the banquets at which the families had swapped children in order to eat them. I could see the worried faces of the families as they chewed the flesh of other people's children. The children who were chasing butterflies in a nearby field seemed to be the reincarnation of the children devoured by their parents. I felt sorry for the children but not as sorry as I felt for their parents. What had made them swallow that human flesh, amidst the tears and grief of others — flesh that they would never have imagined tasting, even in their worst nightmares?"
The author of this passage was jailed as a traitor but his status protected him from death and he was finally released in 1997.
How many people died in the famine of 1959–61? The low range is 20 million. The high range is 43 million. Finally in 1961, the government gave in and permitted food imports, but it was too little and too late. Some peasants were again allowed to grow crops on their own land. A few private workshops were opened. Some markets were permitted. Finally, the famine began to abate and production grew.
But then the third phase came: scapegoating. What had caused the calamity? The official reason was anything but communism, anything but Mao. And so the politically motivated roundup began again, and here we get the very heart of the Culture Revolution. Thousands of camps and detention centers were opened. People sent there died there. In prison, the slightest excuse was used to dispense with people — all to the good, since the prisoners were a drain on the system, so far as those in charge were concerned. The largest penal system ever built was organized in a military fashion, with some camps holding as many as 50,000 people.
There was some sense in which everyone was in prison. Arrests were sweeping and indiscriminate. Everyone had to carry around a copy of Mao's Little Red Book. To question the reason for arrest was itself evidence of disloyalty, since the state was infallible. Once arrested, the safest path was instant and frequent confession. Guards were forbidden from using overt violence, so interrogations would go on for hundreds of hours, and often the prisoner would die during this process. Those named in the confession were then hunted down and rounded up. Once you got through this process, you were sent to a labor camp, where you were graded according to how many hours you could work with little food. You were fed no meat nor given any sugar or oil. Labor prisoners were further controlled by the rationing of the little food they had.
The final phase of this incredible litany of criminality lasted from 1966 to 1976, during which the number killed fell dramatically to "only" one to three million. The government, now tired and in the first stages of demoralization, began to lose control, first within the labor camps and then in the countryside. And it was this weakening that led to the final, and in some ways the most vicious, of the communist periods in China's history.
The first stages of rebellion occurred in the only way permissible: people began to criticize the government for being too soft and too uncommitted to the communist goal. Ironically, this began to appear precisely as moderation became more overt in Russia. Neo-revolutionaries in the Red Guard began to criticize the Chinese communists as "Khrushchev-like reformers." As one writer put it, the guard "rose up against its own government in order to defend it."
During this period, the personality cult of Mao reached it height, with the Little Red Book achieving a mythic status. The Red Guards roamed the country in an attempt to purge the Four Old-Fashioned Things: ideas, culture, customs, and habits. The remaining temples were barricaded. Traditional opera was banned, with all costumes and sets in the Beijing Opera burned. Monks were expelled. The calendar was changed. All Christianity was banned. There were to be no pets such as cats and birds. Humiliation was the order of the day.
Do not give in to evil!
Thus was the Red Terror: in the capital city, there were 1,700 deaths and 84,000 people were run out. In other cities such as Shanghai, the figures were worse. A massive party purge began, with hundreds of thousands arrested and many murdered. Artists, writers, teachers, scientists, technicians: all were targets. Pogroms were visited on community after community, with Mao approving at every step as a means of eliminating every possible political rival. But underneath, the government was splintering and cracking, even as it became ever more brutal and totalitarian in its outlook.
Finally in 1976, Mao died. Without a few months, his closest advisers were all imprisoned. And the reform began slowly at first and then at breakneck speed. Civil liberties were restored (comparatively) and the rehabilitations began. Torturers were prosecuted. Economic controls were gradually relaxed. The economy, by virtue of human and private economic initiative, was transformed.
Having read the above, you are now in a tiny elite of people who know anything about the greatest death camp in the history of the world that China became between 1949 and 1976, an experiment in total control unlike anything else in history. Many more people today know more about China's exploding cell-phone batteries than they do about the hundred million dead and the untold amount of suffering that occurred under communism.
When you hear about shoddy products coming from China or wheat poorly processed, imagine millions in famine, with parents swapping children to eat in order to stay alive. And what do China's critics today recommend? More control by the government. Don't tell me that we've learned anything from history. We don't even know enough about history to learn from it.

Sphere: Related Content

Conrad Black Convicted Of Obstruction Of Justice And Fraud

Conrad Black, the wealthy Canadian turned British noble who built the vast newspaper empire that included the Chicago Sun-Times, was convicted today of obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud in a scheme to swindle shareholders out of millions of dollars.

Post trial motions about sentencing, forfeiture and whether Black would be allowed to return to Toronto are underway this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Chicago where a jury handed down the convictions but also acquitted Black of nine charges, including wire fraud and a racketeering.

The convictions are expected to lead to prison time for the 62-year-old British Lord, who showed no visible reaction to the verdict. Black faces a maximum of 35 years in prison for the offenses the jury convicted him of, plus a maximum penalty of $1 million.

Sentencing has been set for Nov. 30.

Andrew Stoltmann, a securities lawyer who attended Friday's hearing, said he felt Black "had not that bad of a day'' given the number of counts he had faced. Stoltmann said the judge would have a great deal of discretion in sentencing and that he predicted a sentence of three to eight years was possible.

A federal jury in Chicago also found Black's three co-defendants guilty of three counts of mail fraud each. They are former Hollinger International vice presidents John Boultbee, 64, of Vancouver, Peter Y. Atkinson, 60, of Toronto, and attorney Mark Kipnis, 59, of Chicago. They face up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.

The parties returned U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve's courtroom at 11:15 a.m. this morning to begin post-trial motions and discuss bonds. All four defendants waived their right to a jury for upcoming forfeiture trials.

Black's attorney said the former press baron intended to return to Toronto and stay there until sentencing, at a later, undetermined date. Prosecutors said Black was a flight risk and asked that he be taken into custody immediately. Judge St. Eve was expected to rule on Black's bond this afternoon but already determined that Boultbee and Atkinson could return to Canada. Boultbee put up $1.5 million in assets and Atkinson put up his $2 million Napa Valley home to secure their appearances.

Prosecutors recommended sentencing ranges of 15 years to 20 years for Black and 7 to 10 years for Boultbee and Atkinson. No recommendations had yet been made for Kipnis. There were no decisions and motions were still being made during the morning court session.

Black's conviction marks the stunning downfall of one of Canada's most prominent businessmen, who used the power of the press to become an international celebrity, known as much for his right-wing views as for his jet-setting lifestyle.

Although not a household name in Chicago, the former Hollinger chairman, chief executive and controlling shareholder hobnobbed with business and political leaders from around the world. Black, 62, wrote biographies of former American presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, the latter published during his criminal trial.

He intermingled business and personal affairs, stacking the company's board of directors with other prominent conservatives, such as American diplomat Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, the former assistant Secretary of Defense. His second wife, Barbara Amiel, an English-born journalist, also was on the board.

Hollinger outgrew its humble beginnings in Quebec to become the third-largest newspaper company in the world in the 1990s. Besides the Sun-Times, it owned the London Telegraph, the National Post in Canada, the Jerusalem Post and scores of smaller community papers. The company began selling assets in the late 1990s to reduce debt and is now known as the Sun-Times Media Group Inc.

Black was ousted as chairman in 2004, after an internal inquiry sparked by shareholder complaints found that he had obtained millions of dollars in unauthorized payments. The investigation led to criminal charges a year later again him and four top lieutenants.

The payments came under the guise of non-compete agreements made during sales of Hollinger newspapers. Black agreed not to compete in the markets where the papers circulated in exchange for cash payments. Prosecutors say the money should have gone to Hollinger's shareholders, not the executives.

Sphere: Related Content

Film Pirate Arrested For Filming Sc-Fi Movie 'Transformer'.

Among the five people jailed nationwide on charges of film piracy, using camcorders to tape the sc-fi movie 'Transformers' is a Gwinnett County Man known by the name Tyrone F. Simpson.

A sheriff's deputy working at the Discover Mills 18 theater in Lawrenceville arrested 31-year-old Tyrone F. Simpson of Grayson late Saturday after an audience member reported he was using a hand-held camera to record the movie, according to the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Authorities charged Simpson with film piracy, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, the Gwinnett County sheriff's office said Tuesday. Investigators also charged him with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Simpson got out of jail on bond Sunday. He could not be reached for comment.

The arrest is part of a crackdown on illegal recordings by the MPAA and theater owners. The groups say illicit videos made by moviegoers are a primary source of pirated films, which they say cost the industry $18 billion a year.

While the crime is frequently committed — probably every weekend, Thompson said — it's not a top priority for law enforcement, said Rick Malone, executive director of Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia.

"Yes, it happens a lot. Pirated merchandise, whether it's designer merchandise or something else, is big businesses and it's getting bigger," he said. "However, in the big scheme of things, when the police are dealing with burglaries and robberies and murder, they fall down in priority a bit. The same is true with prosecutors."

While it's not clear what Simpson planned to do with the recording, the MPAA says such videos are a primary source of the pirated films that can show up for sale anywhere from your local MARTA station to a street-corner stall around the world in a matter of hours.

About 90 percent of pirated films start with someone taping a showing in a movie theater — and the problem is getting worse, MPAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman said.

Some people record and upload for the glory of being the first to post a new film, but many are motivated by potentially "significant" payouts from distributors, Kaltman said.

Investigators in California, Florida, Illinois and New York also charged people over the weekend with illegally recording movies. The cases are unrelated.

Even though it's a relatively rare charge for police to file, the arrest Saturday night represented the second such case at Gwinnett's Discover Mills in the past few weeks, said Capt. Greg Thompson of the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department.

Thompson, who frequently works security at the theater, learned about the statute a few weeks ago after a Discover Mills employee reported a juvenile filming another movie.

"It's very easy to detect," he said.

Sphere: Related Content

Chinese Embassy A Client of Pamela Martin & Associates

As a front liner in the business, Pamela Martin & Associates escorts counted some of Washington's wealthiest and most elite among their clientèle according to individuals and places WMR has matched to the agency's phone records from 1994 to 2000.

A phone extension at the Cosmos Club in Washington appears on the list. The current and past members of the club include a number of Nobel Prize laureates, and Pulitzer and Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees.

There are a number of lawyer/lobbyists on the list representing a number of sectors, including international banking, high technology, and housing.

WMR has also determined that PMA calls were placed to the District of Columbia courthouse, the DC Housing Authority, and the DC Police 3rd District Headquarters.

A Capitol Hill news bureau is also found in the phone records.

Larry Flynt Exposes GOP Senator David Vitter

Larry Flynt's ongoing investigation into the dirty secrets of prominent elected officials has exposed another hypocrite. Monday's confession of marital infidelity by GOP right-wing marriage-protection advocate Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was the result of a multi-pronged investigation launched and run by Larry Flynt, publisher of HUSTLER Magazine.

Within hours of a phone call from the offices of HUSTLER Magazine asking Vitter to comment on an article HUSTLER reporters were working on, Vitter ran to the Associated Press in an attempt to get ahead of the story.

As of 2 p.m. West Coast time on Monday, only Larry Flynt and the HUSTLER investigative team knew that Vitter's phone number appeared on the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam. Flynt's team is currently continuing its investigation into improprieties by other high-ranking elected officials.

Senator Vitter, a churchgoing Catholic who is married and has four children, is seen as a hard-line right-winger. A staunch supporter of President Bush, Vitter has built his reputation on family-values platforms such as marriage protection and abstinence-only programs.

In opposition to same-sex marriage, Vitter recently stated, Marriage is a core institution of societies throughout the world and throughout history. It's something that has provided permanence and stability for our very social structure.

Sen. Vitter announced his support for Rudy Giuliani in March and was tapped by the presidential nomination candidate to serve as his Southern Regional Chair.

Chinese Embassy a Client of Pamela Martin & Associates

The phone records of so-called "Washington Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey show that the embassy of the People's Republic of China was a possible client of the Pamela Martin & Associates (PMA) escort agency.

On August 3, 1999, a phone call was made from PMA to a phone registered to the Chinese embassy at 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest Washington, DC.

Sphere: Related Content

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, Deborah Jeane Palfrey's Client Says "Am Sorry"

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, whose telephone number was disclosed by the so-called "D.C. Madam" accused of running a prostitution ring, says he is sorry for a "serious sin" and that he has already made peace with his wife.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said Monday in a printed statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Vitter's spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement Monday evening in an e-mail to The Associated Press after a statement purported to be from Vitter was received by to the AP bureau in New Orleans.

It said his telephone number was on old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey is accused by federal prosecutors of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends that her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business.

A Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, the 46-year-old Vitter was elected to his current office in 2004, becoming the first Republican from Louisiana elected to the Senate since Reconstruction. He represented Louisiana's 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004.

Vitter and his wife, Wendy, live in Metairie, La., with their four children.

Palfrey's attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, told the AP, "I'm stunned that someone would be apologizing for this." He said Palfrey had posted the phone numbers of her escort service's clients online Monday, but that he had not been aware Vitter's number was among them. Vitter's statement was sent to the AP's New Orleans bureau Monday evening.

Palfrey's Web site contains several pages phone records, but no names, dating from August 1994 to August 2006. Palfrey wrote on the Web site that she believed a disk containing the records had been pirated, and said she was posting the records "to thwart any possible distorted version and to ensure the integrity of the information."

Palfrey revealed details of her escort service on ABC's news magazine "20/20" on May 4. At the time, ABC said it could not link any information provided by Palfrey to members of Congress or White House officials but did find links to prominent business executives, NASA officials and at least five military officers.

Sphere: Related Content

Selling Sex Via SMS In Kuwait

A short text message sent to local mobile phone users offers what seems to be sexual services - or at least sex talk - over the phone. How did such a service get the numbers of people in Kuwait? What are telecom firms doing to block such unsavory advertisers? Dozens of people in Kuwait recently received this SMS message in Arabic: "Hi! I'm Muneera, call me and I will make you happy and satisfied." This message was sent to subscribers of only one telecommunications provider in Kuwait. The messages came from another Arab country. Needless to say, the services 'Muneera' seems to be offering are illegal in Kuwait.

SMS is a convenient and cheap means of advertising. Its direct to the targeted audience, highly likely to be read and if crafted well, sure to catch the attention of the mobile phone user. SMS ads also cost less than making cold calls to sell products. Many department stores, hotels and other service providers take the mobile numbers of their customers and send them SMS them about upcoming sales and promotions. Other companies buy lists of mobile numbers - either from a telecommunications firm or from a data list provider.

Many people are surprised when they receive promotional messages on their mobiles although they are not the customers of this company. Many simply delete the invasive SMS. But sometimes, this type of advertising can go too far. For an Arab Muslim country, pornographic messages or other services advertising sexual products are unacceptable.

Some of those who called 'Muneera' ended up with a KD 50 charge on their phone bill, this reporter has learned. Many others simply saw the SMS as offensive. "I'm married, and I'm not interested in such services or messages. I called the customer service department of the mobile provider, and complained. They promised they will work on banning such messages. I really didn't receive any more messages from this number, thus the customer service department didn't follow-up with me to see if I still do receive such messages or not," said 42 year old Kuwait resident Waleed.

Adults can suspect such weird and just delete them when receive. But what happens when a teen or even younger kids receive such messages?

According to a local telecommunications provider, the messages are being sent randomly. A customer service representative for the firm said "These swindlers are simply calling randomly any numbers. They know the international code, and then they only choose seven numbers randomly," the employee said. "We are working on this subject, and we hope we may definitely ban these messages from reaching our subscribers."

Sphere: Related Content

Microchip Technology Sues Shanghai Haier Integrated Circuit Over Copyright Infringement

U.S.-based Microchip Technology Inc. has brought a leading Chinese semiconductor maker to court in Shanghai, accusing the company of infringing the copyright of its database.

The world's paramount chip maker is suing Shanghai Haier Integrated Circuit Co. on charges of copying the microcode and the data manual of the Microchip-patented Microcontroller Unit (MCU) -- PIC16CXXX.

"Microchip has devoted huge resources to developing the data manual and the microcode, and we have solid evidence to prove Shanghai Haier has violated our copyrights," said Yang Jinzhu, vice president of Microchip Asia Pacific.

According to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the copyright should be protected in China just as it is in the United States, Yang said.

Shanghai Haier said in a statement "Microchip's accusation is a distortion aimed to restrain Haier and intimidate its clients, which Haier cannot accept".

The statement said Haier owned the intellectual property rights of all its products. "Haier's MCU is not completely compatible with Microchip's. Our products have more functions and better resistance to interference," it said.

Chen Shu, a Haier marketing manager, said "the company will cooperate with the judicial investigation but I am sure we won't lose the case."

The case has been accepted and will be heard at Shanghai First Intermediate People's Court.

Sphere: Related Content

Report Reveals Japan Army Sex Slavery Racket

Forcing women to become sex slaves was a crime organized by the Japanese military during Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s, according to an investigative report published yesterday.

The first report by the Investigative Committee on Former Chinese "Comfort Women", co-founded by All China Lawyers' Association (ACLA) and China Legal Aid Foundation, traced 17 more survivors besides the ones who have already sued the Japanese government.

During its probe from September 2006 to March 2007, the committee found 14 of the 17 survivors were less than 18 when they were forced to become "comfort women", with the youngest being just 12.

Sixteen of the newly identified women were from North China's Shanxi Province and one from South China's Hainan Province, said the report posted on ACLA's website. The committee focused on five counties in Shanxi, two in Hainan and six in Yunnan.

Kang Jian, one of the lawyers behind the investigation, interviewed all the 17 survivors. "Now they are all in their 70s or 80s but they still suffer from serious mental and physical trauma," he said.

The Japanese army even tortured these "comfort women" by slashing them with knives or burning their faces with cigarettes.

"Many of them have no children and live in poverty. They told me their biggest wish was to get an apology and compensation from the Japanese government," Kang said.

But Tokyo has refused to pay direct compensation to any of the estimated 200,000 women, mostly Asian, saying all claims had been settled by subsequent peace treaties.

In April, Japan's top court rejected compensation claims of two Chinese women forced into the military brothels.

"Japanese courts have dismissed three Chinese 'comfort women's' lawsuits, while the fourth is going on," Kang said. "We carried out the investigations in a way that the documentation would help the court case."

The committee also released photographs of six Japanese officers' confessing about how they had "arrested" Chinese women and set up military brothels. Even a temple at Tengchong County in Yunnan Province was turned into a Japanese army brothel.

The "comfort women" practise lasted at least 16 years in China, the report said.

Su Zhiliang, director of the research center on "comfort women" in Shanghai Normal University, said more than 200,000 Chinese women were forced to become "comfort women" and over 75 percent of them were tortured to death.

"It's a shame that the Japanese government has rejected compensation pleas because the regulations and certificates show that the Japanese army and its government had forced women into prostitution," Su said. "In Hainan alone, there were 67 military brothels; there were more than 158 in Shanghai."

Sphere: Related Content

Jessica Smith Pleads Guilty On DUI Charges

The attorney for Jessica Smith, former star of MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," plead guilty to misdemeanor DUI on Monday.
Smith was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to attend one MADD meeting and serve 80 hours of community service.
Smith was charged back in March, after the car she was driving slammed into the back of an Acura, causing "great bodily injury" to people in both cars.
The CHP report said that her level of intoxication, unsafe speed and wet roadways were conditions that led to the crash.
Smith amassed fines and penalties totaling more than $1,300.

Sphere: Related Content

Britney Spears Apologizes For Umbrella Incidence With Paparazzi

Britney Spears had a lot of explaining to do after a tumultuous few months and has been doing so through writing letters.
She has written open letters to fans on her official website to explain her behavior, served her own mother with a letter which allegedly warned her to stay away from her grandchildren and now the fallen pop star has penned a note to the paparazzi.
Back when Britney was on her downward spiral, she vandalized a photographer's car with an umbrella. Images were splashed across magazines around the world of a bald Britney, dressed in an oversized sweater and shorts, hurling an umbrella at a car.
However, the "Crazy" singer insists that she is sorry about the incident and that she didn't mean for it to get so out of control. According to the mother-of-two, she was getting into character for a film role that fell through.
She wrote to paparazzi agency x17, saying, "I want to apologize for the past incident with the umbrella. I was preparing a character for a possible movie role where the husband doesn't play his part so they swap places. Unfortunately I didn't get the part. I'm sorry I got all carried away with my role!"
Many sources are unsure whether Britney is being genuine in her apology or if she is making up another excuse.
The star's wild behavior at the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007 landed her in rehab. She has since gone back to work and partying.

Sphere: Related Content

British reporter Alan Johnston Released After 115 Days in Captivity

Following some 115 days in captivity, British reporter Alan Johnston, looking pale and tired, was released in the Gaza Strip and said it was "fantastic" to be free after an "appalling" ordeal. Johnston told a news conference that he was moved twice during his nearly four months in captivity.
The British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent described his time in captivity as "occasionally quite terrifying" in a telephone interview with the BBC. "It was an appalling experience," he said, speaking from the home of deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.
"It is indescribably good to be out," he said in a steady and composed voice. "It is just the most fantastic thing to be free," he added, saying he felt as well as could be expected.
"I didn't know where it was going to end," he said, adding that he had endured "an extraordinary level of stress" and psychological pressure. "I probably got out if it as well as I could have."
Johnston was kidnapped by a shadowy, little-known group from a Gaza City street on March 12 and held far longer than any other foreign reporter in Gaza.
After his release, he was taken to the home of Haniyeh in Gaza City's Shati refugee camp. Before entering, Johnston told an Associated Press reporter, "I'm OK, really, I'm OK."
Television footage showed Johnston emerging from a building in Gaza surrounded by a throng of armed Palestinian men and escorted into a waiting car while cameras flashed around him.
Simon Wilson, the BBC's Middle East bureau chief, speaking to BBC News 24 from Jerusalem, said he had spoken to Johnston following his release. "His first thoughts were for others and for what they've done for him."
The BBC also reported Johnston had spoken to his father since his release. A BBC spokesman in London could not confirm details of the terms of the reporter's release.
There was no immediate comment from Johnston's captors, the Army of Islam.
Hamas had demanded Johnston's freedom since it violently seized control of Gaza last month, in an apparent bid to curry favor with the West.
On Tuesday, Hamas gunmen took positions around the Army of Islam's stronghold, stepping up the pressure to secure his release.
Members of Hamas' 6,000-person militia moved onto rooftops of high-rise buildings and deployed gunmen in streets of the Gaza City neighborhood inhabited by the Doghmush clan, the large, heavily armed family that leads the Army of Islam.
In an afternoon exchange of fire, a Palestinian civilian was killed, Hamas said, blaming the Doghmush forces. No other casualties were reported.
"The clocks have begun ticking toward the release of Alan Johnston," said Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad. "The operation of the interior ministry Executive Forces has started, and they are tightening the siege on the people involved in his kidnap."
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said Tuesday that security forces "will not spare any efforts to free the British journalist." Hamas radio broadcast a toll free phone number, urging people to call in any information about the case.
On Monday, Hamas arrested the spokesman of the Army of Islam, giving it a potentially valuable bargaining chip in its efforts to release Johnston.
Late Tuesday, the Doghmush clan released nine students loyal to Hamas that they kidnapped earlier in the week. Hamas officials and mediators said the release was meant to pave the way for Johnston's release.
Then four Army of Islam members were freed by Hamas, said Abu Mujahid from the Popular Resistance Committees, the militant group handling the negotiations. The four included the Army of Islam spokesman arrested Monday.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused Johnston's captors of smearing the Palestinian people's reputation and of seeking "to prove to the world that we are a group of militias that fight each other to gain personal ends."
The Army of Islam, whose formerly close relations with Hamas have soured, had demanded that Britain first release a radical Islamic cleric with ties to al-Qaida. It also had threatened to kill Johnston if Hamas tried to free him by force.
Last week, the Army of Islam posted a video message from Johnston on a militant Web site in which he appeared to be wearing an explosives belt that he said his captors would detonate if there were an attempt to free him.
The same group was involved in the capture of Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was seized more than a year ago in a raid on an Israeli army post near Gaza.

Sphere: Related Content

Lewis "Scooter" Libby Got What Paris Hilton Could Not Get

Some five hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Lewis Libby cannot delay his 30-months prison term, President has intervened to prevent the former vice-presidential aide, from serving the prison term.
Libby was convicted obstructing an inquiry into the leaking of a CIA agent's name, and was just waiting for a date to surrender.
After months of sidestepping pardon questions, Bush stepped in. He did not issue a pardon but erased a prison sentence that he felt was just too harsh.
"I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said in a written statement. "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison."
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed the president's assertion that the prison term was excessive. Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals, Fitzgerald said. "It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals."
Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells, said in a statement that the Libby family was grateful for Bush's action and continued to believe in his innocence.
Because he was not pardoned, Libby remains the highest-ranking White House official convicted of a crime since the Iran-Contra affair. But he won't have to serve a day in prison, a fact that his friends cheered, even those who wished he'd received a full pardon.
"That's fantastic. It's a great relief," said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, who helped raise millions for Libby's defense fund. "Scooter Libby did not deserve to go to prison and I'm glad the president had the courage to do this."
Though the leak investigation is complete and nobody will have to serve prison time, the scandal that has loomed over the Bush administration for years did not subside. Democrats were enraged.
"Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's decision showed the president "condones criminal conduct."
The president left intact a $250,000 fine and two years probation for his conviction of lying and obstructing justice in a probe into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. The former operative, Valerie Plame, contends the White House was trying to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of Bush's Iraq policy.
Congress ought to investigate "whether or not the president himself is a participant in the obstruction of justice," Wilson told The Santa Fe New Mexican. Wilson, Plame and their children moved to Santa Fe earlier this year.
"The president has utterly subverted the rule of law and the system of justice that has undergirded this country of ours for the past 220 years," Wilson said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.
Bush said his action still "leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby."
The leak case has hung over the White House for years. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald questioned top administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, about their possible roles. And Libby's trial revealed the extraordinary steps that Bush and Cheney were willing to take to discredit a critic of the Iraq war.
Nobody was ever charged with the leak, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage or White House political adviser Karl Rove, who provided the information for the original article. Prosecutors said Libby obstructed the investigation by lying about how he learned about Plame and whom he told.
Already at record lows in the polls, Bush risked a political backlash with his decision. President Ford tumbled in the polls after his 1974 pardon of Richard M. Nixon, and the decision was a factor in Ford's loss in the 1976 election.
Bush's father - former President George H.W. Bush - issued pardons shortly before leaving office in 1992 for former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five other former officials who had served in the Reagan administration. The six were involved in the Iran-Contra affair, in which arms were secretly sold to Iran to win the freedom of American hostages, then the money was funneled to anti-communist guerrillas in Nicaragua despite a congressional ban on military aid.
On Monday, White House officials said Bush knew he could take political heat for commuting Libby's prison sentence and simply did what he thought was right. They would not say what advice Cheney might have given the president.
Bush said Cheney's former aide was not getting off free.
"The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged," Bush said. "His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting."
Attorney William Jeffress said he had spoken to Libby briefly by phone and "I'm happy at least that Scooter will be spared any prison time. The prison sentence was imminent but obviously the conviction itself is a heavy blow to Scooter."
If only Bush was there for paris, she would not have returned to jail, sorry paris, he was too busy with Iraq. Or could Lewis "Scooter" Libby be above the law? Maybe Partially.

Sphere: Related Content