Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Iran's desperate kidney traders

This disaster is happening in the country whose President keeps saying "nuclear energy is turning us into a superpower"... Where is Iran going to under mullahs?

BBC-On streets and in town squares in Iran, young men and women can be seen holding signs offering their kidneys for sale.

One of them reads: "Immediate offer! Kidney for sale, young man, 22, healthy, blood type O positive. Tel 09122... "

Every year, 1,400 Iranians sell one of their kidneys to a stranger.

At the Tehran branch of the Association of Kidney Patients, one of many agencies set up to facilitate the trade, the reception is full of people.

In the narrow, drab corridors, people are waiting in line, either to fill in forms, answer questions, undergo tests or be X-rayed, and finally to be operated on.

Activity is intense, bordering on the chaotic. Registers are filled in, photographs of patients are pasted onto small cards, and the telephone rings endlessly.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Text of original draft sanctions resolution on Iran

Here you can find the original draft resolution prepared by Britain, France and Germany, calling for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment activities. The draft was circulated to China and Russia on Tuesday and obtained by Kyodo News (via Yahoo Asia) on Thursday. Russia has already rejected this proposal for sanctions on Iran as too tough!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rafsanjani wanted in Argentina

Argentine prosecutors asked a federal judge on Wednesday to order the arrest of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center that killed scores of people.

The decision to attack the center "was undertaken in 1993 by the highest authorities of the then-government of Iran," prosecutor Alberto Nisman said at a news conference.He said the actual attack was entrusted to the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah.

The worst terrorist attack ever on Argentine soil, the bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires killed 85 people and injured more than 200 when an explosive-laden vehicle detonated near the building.


Flashback: What happened in Argentina?

Wikipidia:The AMIA bombing was an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. It was Argentina's deadliest bombing and the largest single incident of terrorism against Jews since World War II. Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America.

Latest Iran headlines

  • Gulf News-Iran, Syria and Al Qaida 'Trying to Tear Iraq Apart' America's civilian and military leaders in Iraq linked Iran and Syria with Al Qaida yesterday as forces trying to tear the country apart and prevent the United States from establishing a stable democracy. The comments from ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey were among the strongest US officials have levelled against Iraq's two neighbours over alleged support for armed groups behind much of the bloodshed.

  • The Financial Times-Sanctions Will Help Regime Change in Iran, Says Bolton Imposing economic and political sanctions against Iran and North Korea will help democratic forces in those countries as Washington pursues its "ultimate objective" of regime change, John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said yesterday. Mr Bolton's comments, to Fox News, reflect the views of hardliners in the Bush administration who doubt that the threat of nuclear proliferation can be dealt with through negotiations. Although the US denies it is pursuing a "regime change" policy towards what it calls the "axis of evil", Mr Bolton's linking of sanctions with "democratic forces" are likely to complicate delicate coalition-building efforts by Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state.

  • AP-Rice Says 'Axis of Evil' Proven Right WASHINGTON -- Recent events in Iran and North Korea support President Bush's 2002 claim that those nations were part of an "axis of evil," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday. After discussions of the North Korean nuclear test and the anti-Semitic remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, radio host Sean Hannity asked Rice about the axis remark. "You think of some of the world reaction to the president's use of the word 'axis of evil,' and then you see how events have been unfolding," Hannity remarked. "It was a pretty good analysis, wasn't it?" Rice replied. "It really was."

  • AP-U.S., Allies Urging Ban on Sales of Nuclear Material to Iran VIENNA, Austria -- The U.S. and its allies want the U.N. Security Council to ban the sale of missile and atomic technology to Iran and end most U.N. help for its nuclear programs—moves diplomats said Tuesday are narrowly focused in hopes of winning Russian and Chinese backing for sanctions. The diplomats, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the draft resolution was not yet public, said the proposal also would commit U.N. member nations to denying entry to Iranian officials involved in developing missiles or nuclear systems. A Security Council resolution passed last week imposed similar sanctions on the sale or transfer of technology that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs after that nation's test explosion of a nuclear bomb.

  • The Washington Times-Iran, Syria Rebuild Hezbollah Iran and Syria are rapidly rearming Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon as an international peacekeeping force has failed to carry out a U.N. mandate to disarm the Shi'ite militia group, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said yesterday. Mr. Mofaz, a former defense minister and chief of general staff in the Israeli Defense Force, also warned that time was growing short for the international community to implement effective sanctions to halt Iran's drive for nuclear weapons. "We know the policy of the Iranian regime is to buy time by talking" while it pursues a nuclear bomb, Mr. Mofaz said in an interview in his suite at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington. "So far they have been very successful."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Iran's Intelligence Ministry behind ban on access to higher education

(New York, October 19, 2006) – Human Rights Watch called on Iran to immediately revoke bans on students from attending university because they hold political beliefs not to the government’s liking, and to allow registered students to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.

In a briefing paper released today, entitled “Denying the Right to Education,” Human Rights Watch documents how the government barred at least 12 students from university registration this past year, despite the fact that graduate programs had accepted them on the basis of successful competitive entrance examinations. The briefing paper also documents the cases of another 54 students who were allowed to register only after agreeing to sign statements that they will refrain from peaceful political activities.

According to documents obtained by Human Rights Watch, the Ministry of Information, which performs intelligence functions, is orchestrating the campaign to deny student activists their right to education. The documents make clear that the decisions are solely based on the students’ political background, not on any educational standards. With the exception of one, all of the banned students are outspoken activists or work with the Islamic Students Association on their campuses.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Iran: Making uranium while the sun shines

Economist, October 5-Iran's ruling clerics are tactically canny. With their prestige enhanced by Hizbullah's perceived defeat of Israel, it might be thought that now would be a good time for them to press Mr Bush, whose designs in the Middle East and Afghanistan are acutely vulnerable to Iranian interference, for a deal on terms amenable to the Islamic Republic. But the Iranians, says another experienced European diplomat, “do not know how to use their good fortune.”

Puffed up after its successes in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran's leaders may not see that, the more they stall, and the more America's allies prevaricate over sanctions, the closer America and perhaps Israel come to taking matters into their own hands and launching military strikes. Reaching out to America would take a vision, courage and authority that the post-Khomeini generation does not command. Far easier, while the sun shines, to enrich uranium.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tehran arms Hamas for a double-barreled war option and Gaza as second Lebanon

October 13, 2006
DEBKAfile Special Military Report

The military pacts Palestinian Hamas interior minister Said Siyam signed with his Iranian counterpart Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi in Tehran on Oct. 12 are designed to transform Hamas’ military wing, the Ezz e-Din al Qassam, into a crack operational arm of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and Gaza into a second Lebanon.

Syam was in Tehran for two days at the head of a 7-man delegation. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report Tehran has committed to training Hamas’ rapid deployment force of 6,500 men in Hizballah combat tactics, with the accent on missiles, especially the anti-tank variety which were used with devastating effect against Israeli tanks in the Lebanon War.

The force will be sent over in batches for six-week courses at Revolutionary Guards installations in southern Iran. Iran will foot the $60 million bill for the training as well as for the top-notch weaponry.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

O Canada, my new home and native land...

Kash Kheirkhah

There are moments in our journey through this amazing ride called life in which dreams finally come true, only if we believe ourselves worthy of them and have the courage to follow them since pursuing a dream sometimes--as it happened in my own life--equates abandoning some of the people you hold dearest in your life.

Three and a half years ago, I left my family and homeland to embark on a life-changing journey that began with a dream. The dream of a brighter future by establishing my life in the modern, free world and eventually becoming a member of this new, exciting world...

And it was this dream that kept me going through some of the most difficult days of my life...

Tomorrow, as Canada embraces me as one of its new citizens, a big part of this dream finally comes true and I just couldn't be any happier.

As I have said before, immigration, before anything else, is the story of survival; the story of constant physical and emotional struggles; the story of the difficult moments impossible to share with anyone, because no one understands what you are going through except yourself.

Yet it is also the story of a vision of the promising years to come, the wonderful new places to go, the great new people to see, the precious old friends to rediscover and great new friends to make, the exciting new plans to follow and the life-long dreams to achieve. It's the story of the chances to take and the successes to savor.

Canada is now my new homeland but that doesn't mean Iran isn't anymore. It is true that I am blacklisted--like hundreds of thousands of other freedom-loving Iranians-- by the Iranian regime and thus, can't go back, but there is not a SINGLE moment I don't think about IRAN and the people--including my own family-- who are suffering under the hands of a backward, oppressive regime. I can't wait to see the day that my country is finally free and as a journalist, I'll do my level best to open people's eyes, on this side of the world, to the atrocities that are happening in Iran and also help my own compatriots receive the news and information they really need to know, in order to get out of the plight they are currently in.

Iran, my home and native land, I love you and look forward to the day I'll see you again as a free, democratic and prosperous country.

Canada, my new home and native land,

Here I am. This is me and I coming to your world so wild and free.

It's a new world. It's a new start. It's a new day in a new land and it's waiting for me.

Here I am...Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I love you.

Islamic Republic MP: 18.5 percent of Iran's 70 million population under the poverty line

This while in a speech earlier today, Islamic Republic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed, "There's only one thing the Iranian people are demanding these days and that's nuclear energy"...

AFP-TEHRAN -- About 200,000 Iranian workers have not received their salaries for months, the head of the official labour union has been quoted as saying in the press.

"Close to 200,000 workers in 500 factories have not received any salary for months," said Alireza Mahjoub, the secretary general of Iran's House of Labour. "Some of these workers have been waiting for their wages for about 50 months," said Mahjoub, who is also a member of parliament.

The parliament should consider the delayed payments in the (upcoming) additional budget bill," he said. According to Mahjoub, some 18.5 percent of Iran's 70 million population live under the poverty line. The Tehran MP also expressed concern over the high inflation rate during the past few months, describing the rising prices as the "the root of the current economic problems."

In the past few weeks, Iranian officials have denied inflation is rising, putting the rate at about 10 percent, even though staple items have become more expensive in markets and unofficial sources estimate the figure to have reached at least 20 percent. However, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted to the criticism by putting the blame on "national and non-national media" for rising consumer prices.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Scorsese's 'The Departed' ROCKS!

Martin Scorsese's "The Departed"-- his best movie since Casino (1995) in my opinion-- is a superb effort by a legendary cinema maestro who quenches moviegoers' desire for a great storytelling by his remake of the Hong Kong movie 'WuJianDao' (Internal Affair). That's why this movie had the biggest opening sales ever for Marty and is already on IMDB's top 250 best movies of all time!

"The Departed" is a sweet reminder of Scorsese in "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas", yet it is in a class of its own because of its unique style of unfolding the characters , events and the storyline, not to mention the twists toward the end of the movie that just blow your mind away.

Scorsese's magic touch is everywhere in this gangster flick which is a genre of movie he does best; from his signature storytelling and cinematagrophy to the music which does make you feel "Comfortably Numb" as you follow the story.

Martin Scorsese's magnificent storytelling in "The Departed" and the legendary Jack Nicholson and Leonardo Dicaprio's powerhouse acting (Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg are also great) all should be rewarded with an oscar. Will Clint Eastwood and his "Flags of our Fathers" let that happen? I don't know, but as a big Scorsese's fan and with all due respect for my other favorite Clint Eastwood, I truly believe this should finally be Scorsese's year.

Thank you for "The Departed" Marty.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya: Another outspoken Putin critic shot dead in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on Saturday at her apartment block in central Moscow, police said."According to initial information she was killed by two shots when leaving the lift. Neighbors found her body," a police source told Reuters. Police found a pistol and four rounds in the lift.
Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, won international fame and numerous prizes for her dogged pursuit of rights abuses by Putin's government, particularly in the violent southern province of Chechnya.

MOSCOW - A journalist shot to death in an apparent contract killing was about to publish a story about torture and abductions in Chechnya when she was slain, her editor said Sunday, as Russia's top prosecutor took charge of the case.

RUSSIA’S most famous investigative reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was gunned down in the lift of her Moscow apartment block yesterday in an apparent contract killing. A fearless opponent of Russia’s wars in Chechnya who once described President Vladimir Putin as a “KGB snoop” and compared him to Stalin, she was shot as she returned home from a shopping trip at 4.30pm. A pistol and four bullets were found near her body.

MOSCOW, Oct. 7 — Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and author who made her name as a searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment building, shot in the head with a pistol, the authorities and her colleagues said.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Arrested in Afghanistan: An Iranian jihadist 'rejected by the Taliban'

The Guardian-Abdullah had reached the end of a pitifully short career as a Taliban fighter. He had been arrested hours earlier, just 10 days after signing up to the insurgency. "I come from Iran," he said in a quavering voice, wringing his hands nervously. "They told me the Americans had invaded Afghanistan and I should go and fight jihad.

Military and diplomatic sources said they had received numerous reports of Iranians meeting tribal elders in Taliban-influenced areas, bringing offers of military or more often financial support for the fight against foreign forces. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meetings took place in Helmand province, where more than 3,000 British troops are based, and neighbouring Nimroz, a lawless desert province bordering eastern Iran.

Abdullah said he had left his home in Kamyaran in the western province of Kurdistan six weeks earlier, telling his family he was going to Tehran to work. Instead he continued hundreds of miles east until he reached the desert city of Zahedan and slipped across the Afghan border. All he carried was an address given him by a jihadi leader named Abdullah Shafi, he said.

Shafi, a Kurdish militant from northern Iraq, is a former leader of Ansar al-Islam, a Taliban-like group with links to al-Qaida. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Shafi became known for despatching suicide bombers to Baghdad. Although Shafi was subsequently expelled from Iran, Abdullah said his organisation is still recruiting fresh militants - like him. Abdullah was sent to a secret training camp near the Iraqi border that he believed was run by the Iranian government. "They gave us weapons, money and accommodation, and made sure we would not be arrested," he said. "Our government doesn't like America. It wants to install a Shia government in Iraq like in Iran. It is doing its best to achieve that." Most graduates at the camp were destined for Iraq or Lebanon, Abdullah said - 19 of his 20 classmates were subsequently sent to Iraq...


EU-Iran talks appear to have failed

GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press: NEW YORK (AP) -- Iran's refusal to freeze uranium enrichment has sabotaged talks meant to defuse the standoff over its nuclear program, opening the way for the U.N. Security Council to start considering sanctions next week, senior U.N. diplomats said Tuesday.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity, citing agreement not to publicly pronounce the talks dead before a final attempt by European Union envoy Javier Solana and Ali Larijani, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator, to bridge differences in a phone call scheduled for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, another diplomat said Larijani - considered a moderate - told Solana he had been unable to sell the concept of even a limited enrichment freeze to the more hard-line leadership in Tehran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said as much during the weekend, telling professors at Tehran University that Iran would not suspend enrichment for a single day.

Wednesday's planned Larijani-Solana phone call is to be followed by a meeting Friday in London by the foreign ministers of the five Security Council nations and Germany or their senior representatives. Then, the Security Council could meet as early as Monday to start work on a resolution imposing the first of a series of sanctions meant to make Iran turn course. One of the diplomats said Western council members - the United States, Britain and France - favor an embargo on sales of nuclear or missile technology to Tehran as a first step, to be followed by others, including travel bans on Iranian officials and the freezing of their assets...

In other news:

BBC- Key powers to seek Iran sanctions: The US and key EU powers will seek a fresh UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear policy. The move comes after EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana concluded that Iran was not going to suspend uranium enrichment, said a senior UK official.

AP-Oil Prices Fall Below $59 a Barrel: Oil prices settled at a seven-month low below $59 a barrel Tuesday as rising global supplies, slack demand and a mild Atlantic hurricane season forced geopolitical worries to the backburner.

Gulf Times-Rice in Saudi, Iran issue on top of agenda: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived yesterday in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a Middle East tour set to be dominated by the Iran nuclear standoff.