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Kick Assiest Blog
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Libtards drop public Sheehan role, picks up Hurricane Katrina as latest fruitcake political issue
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

Since the daily national reports from Camp Casey ceased a few hours after the Sheehan critics arrived on the scene, and after the polls show Cindy Windy did nothing but STRENGTHEN support of Iraq... the MoveOn.org libtards are now "taking a less active role" in the fruitcake's babbling bullshit.

Now the mainstrean media is all too happy to switch their coverage from Cindy to Katrina after the You Don't Speak for Me Cindy Tour rolled into Crawford, outnumbering the libtards three to one. MSM was having a tough time spinning that fact, so the hurricane was a convenient way to just let it go.

Liberals drop public Sheehan role

Powerful liberal advocacy groups such as MoveOn.org are taking a less active role in Cindy Sheehan's anti-war activities in the wake of criticism that they may have muddied her message.

The groups, which played a major role in Mrs. Sheehan's monthlong vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, are scaling back their involvement as Mrs. Sheehan prepares to leave Texas today on a bus tour to Washington.

Critics had said it appeared that Mrs. Sheehan had morphed from a mother grieving the loss of her son in Iraq into a pawn of liberal advocacy groups.

"The vigil started as a very grass-roots thing and then grew because groups like MoveOn were drawn to what Cindy was doing and wanted to offer their support," said Wade Fletcher of Mintwood Media Collective, a Washington-based public-relations group advising the Sheehan demonstrators.

"Now we're kind of bringing it back to the original grass roots," he added.

For example, the protesters will no longer receive strategic and political advice from Fenton Communications, a large, left-wing public-relations firm. That role reverts to Mintwood, a small operation that helped Mrs. Sheehan early on.

Also taking a lesser role will be MoveOn.org, which spent August running anti-Bush TV and newspaper ads featuring Mrs. Sheehan. The group, which posted images on its Web site likening the president to Adolf Hitler, once pledged to raise $2 million to keep Sheehan ads on the air.

Organizers of the bus tour expressed hope that they might continue to receive financial donations from powerful liberal advocacy groups such as MoveOn and TrueMajority, which was founded by Ben & Jerry's ice cream magnate Ben Cohen. But they are focused on soliciting contributions from people who oppose the Iraq war.

"We're renting the buses; we're collecting the funding to make it all possible, so this is a grass-roots effort," said organizer Nancy Lessin of Military Families Speak Out, one of four groups paying for the bus tour.

The other groups sponsoring the trip are Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace.

Organizers said they would continue to receive support from high-profile groups such as Code Pink, a women's group that holds weekly war protests outside Walter Reed Army Hospital. Code Pink protesters brandish signs with such messages as "Maimed for Lies" and "Enlist here and die for Halliburton."

Despite the effort to return Mrs. Sheehan's cause to a grass-roots movement, she has made no attempt to ratchet down her rhetoric. Yesterday, for example, she railed against "the reckless commander in chief" for waging a "cowardly and ignoble war."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to criticize Mrs. Sheehan, noting that "the president has said that the right to free speech is one of the most treasured freedoms in America."

Washington Times ~ Bill Sammon ** Liberals drop public Sheehan role

Posted by uhyw at 1:22 PM EDT
Libtard RFK Jr. blames Haley Barbour for Hurricane Katrina
Mood:  silly
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

The link between Kyoto and hurricane Ketrina is, well, non-existent. Nice of RFK to politicize the deaths of hundreds. According to these enviro-mental wackjob libtards like RFK Jr. and his fellow fruitcakes at Huffington Post... If the Republicans hadn't rejected Kyoto, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 would never have happened!!!

"For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind"

As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi's Gulf Coast, it's worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush's iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2.

In March of 2001, just two days after EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman's strong statement affirming Bush's CO2 promise former RNC Chief Barbour responded with an urgent memo to the White House.

Barbour, who had served as RNC Chair and Bush campaign strategist, was now representing the president's major donors from the fossil fuel industry who had enlisted him to map a Bush energy policy that would be friendly to their interests. His credentials ensured the new administration's attention.

The document, titled "Bush-Cheney Energy Policy & CO2," was addressed to Vice President Cheney, whose energy task force was then gearing up, and to several high-ranking officials with strong connections to energy and automotive concerns keenly interested in the carbon dioxide issue, including Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, White House chief of staff Andy Card and legislative liaison Nick Calio. Barbour pointedly omitted the names of Whitman and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, both of whom were on record supporting CO2 caps. Barbour's memo chided these administration insiders for trying to address global warming which Barbour dismissed as a radical fringe issue.

"A moment of truth is arriving," Barbour wrote, "in the form of a decision whether this Administration's policy will be to regulate and/or tax CO2 as a pollutant. The question is whether environmental policy still prevails over energy policy with Bush-Cheney, as it did with Clinton-Gore." He derided the idea of regulating CO2 as "eco-extremism," and chided them for allowing environmental concerns to "trump good energy policy, which the country has lacked for eight years."

The memo had impact. "It was terse and highly effective, written for people without much time by a person who controls the purse strings for the Republican Party," said John Walke, a high-ranking air quality official in the Clinton administration.

On March 13, Bush reversed his previous position, announcing he would not back a CO2 restriction using the language and rationale provided by Barbour. Echoing Barbour's memo, Bush said he opposed mandatory CO2 caps, due to "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge" about global climate change.

Well, the science is clear. This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming.

Now we are all learning what it's like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and--now--Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

In 1998, Republican icon Pat Robertson warned that hurricanes were likely to hit communities that offended God. Perhaps it was Barbour's memo that caused Katrina, at the last moment, to spare New Orleans and save its worst flailings for the Mississippi coast.

Huffington Post.com ~ Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ** "For They That Sow the Wind Shall Reap the Whirlwind"

Posted by uhyw at 12:44 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 12:47 PM EDT
Ozone layer has stopped shrinking, US study finds
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Yahoo Chat Stuff

Ozone layer has stopped shrinking, US study finds

WASHINGTON - The ozone layer has stopped shrinking but it will take decades to start recovering, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday.

They said an international agreement to limit production of ozone-depleting chemicals has apparently worked, but the damage to ozone has not been halted completely.

An analysis of satellite records and surface monitoring instruments shows the ozone layer has grown a bit thicker in some parts of the world, but is still well below normal levels, the scientists report in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Elsewhere, the decline in ozone levels has stabilized, said Betsy Weatherhead, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The observed changes may be evidence of ozone improvement in the atmosphere," she said in a statement.

The experts credited, at least in part, the 1987 Montreal Protocol which was ratified by more than 180 nations and set legally binding controls for on the production and consumption of ozone-depleting gases containing chlorine and bromine.

The prime suspects in ozone destruction are chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, once commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning and industrial cleaning.

"These early signs indicate one of the strongest success stories of international cooperation in the face of an environmental threat," said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

Weatherhead noted that methane levels, water vapor and air temperatures will continue to affect future ozone levels.

"Even after all chlorine compounds are out of the system, it is unlikely that ozone levels will stabilize at the same levels," she said.

"Chemicals pumped into Earth's atmosphere decades ago still are affecting ozone levels today," said Sherwood Roland of the University of California Irvine. "This problem was a long time in the making, and because of the persistence of these chlorine compounds, there is no short-term fix."

The ozone layer remains so thin that cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation is still getting through.

"This study provides some very encouraging news," said Mike Repacholi of the World Health Organization. "But the major cause of skin cancer is still human behavior, including tanning and sunburns that result from a lack of proper skin protection."

Breitbart ~ Reuters ** Ozone layer has stopped shrinking, US study finds

Posted by uhyw at 12:17 AM EDT
Huge stash of WMDs were found in Iraq ~ media ignored it
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: TRUTH ALERT
Topic: Yahoo Chat Stuff

WMD FOUND IN IRAQ

The media is fond of reminding us that no Weapons of Mass Destruction were ever found in Iraq. This has been the clarion call of the Democrats for a couple of years now. However, did you know that WMD were found in Iraq? Not just a couple...but lots of them. A mother who lost her son in Iraq was interviewed on Fox News had this to say: "I have seen photos of entire fighter jets buried in the sand. I have seen pictures of entire caches of weapons that just my son's unit would uncover." I wonder why we never hear much about that one? Here's also a nice little list of what was found:

500 tons...that's right...TONS...make that 1 million pounds of yellow cake uranium. It was found at Saddam's nuclear weapons facility (yup...he had one of those too.)

1.8 tons of partially enriched uranium found at the same place. You know, the stuff you need to make nukes.

Hidden centrifuge parts and blueprints.

Two dozen artillery shells loaded with Sarin and mustard gas.

Sounds like WMD to me! You may want to print this off and impress your friends with your knowledge. Or just click on these source links and become a better-informed American!

USA Today and their disgusting headline: U.S. transferred uranium from Iraq without U.N. authorization

Please make particular note of the article from the July 7, 2004 edition of USA Today. Here you will read that the United Nations was having a bit of a fit because the United States secretly shipped 4000 pounds of low-enriched uranium and about 1,000 highly radioactive items from Iraq to the US a month earlier. The transfer of this material was made to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.

More...
News Max.com ** Gold Star Mom: Iraq Had WMD

Front Page Mag.com ~ Douglas Hanson ** The UN, Al-Tuwaitha, and Nukes

And the main stream media snoozes away...

Posted by uhyw at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, October 7, 2005 8:19 AM EDT
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
CBS News counters bloggers with 'Nonbudsman'
Mood:  silly
Now Playing: LIBTARD MEDIA BULLSHIT ALERT
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

Will this CBS 'nonbudsman' be blogging in his PJs?

CBS News counters bloggers with 'Nonbudsman'

NEW YORK - After a controversial run-in with bloggers last year that helped sink "60 Minutes Wednesday," CBS has hired a "nonbudsman" to write a blog that will go behind the scenes at the news division.

Former "Hotline" editor Vaughn Ververs will report his findings on "Public Eye," which debuts next month on cbsnews.com.

Ververs will be a kind of media reporter, mostly focused on CBS News, reporting and writing about how the news is gathered, produced and placed. In addition to providing Journalism 101, "Public Eye" also could offer extended versions of segments that appeared on CBS, interviews with correspondents and producers and maybe even the daily story meeting for the "CBS Evening News."

"This is a way to open up the process (of network news)," Ververs said.

Although he's a CBS employee, Ververs doesn't answer to CBS News president Andrew Heyward (Left). His boss is CBS Digital Media head Larry Kramer (Right), who has a long career in journalism. Ververs has no power to change policy or the direction of stories.

"I'm not here to set the rules," Ververs said. "I'm not even here to voice my opinion. That's not my job."

Heyward, who coined the term "nonbudsman," makes it clear that he's not looking for someone to just pat CBS News on the back.

"It's going to be an honest, fair, unvarnished look at what we do, and that means that it's an experiment," Heyward said. "It's a risk. Not everybody approves of what we do. But I'm banking on the fact that people will also see how much effort we make about being fair and being ethical."

In an interview last week at CBSNews.com's headquarters, Ververs acknowledged that it's up to him to show right off the bat that he's neither a network apologist nor a media critic. He's not going to softball anyone, and if CBS News deserves the heat, it's going to get it -- but the network or correspondents aren't obligated to talk to him, either.

But Ververs pointed to the enthusiastic support given by Kramer and Heyward to provide as much transparency as popular in the often-insular world of broadcast news. In the wake of the discredited "60 Minutes Wednesday" report about President Bush's service in the National Guard, CBS News was criticized for not being immediately forthcoming after questions about the reporting emerged.

Kramer thinks that in the case of last year's "Memogate" involving Dan Rather and "60 Minutes Wednesday," something like "Public Eye" would have been useful.

"It would help a news organization deal with controversy because it brings it out into the open," Kramer said. "If you believe as I do that we're an honest, hard-working news organization, all you need to do is have the ability to explain how you do what you do and they'll understand."

Kramer said the more quickly that's done when there are questions, the better. He thinks Ververs, a veteran political journalist and media critic, is perfectly suited for the job.

"He's a combination of a good reporter and the host of a talk show," Kramer said. "The concept is for him to really moderate a debate. . . . That requires asking the right questions and being persistent."


Yahoo News ~ Reuters / Hollywood Reporter - Paul J. Gough ** CBS News counters bloggers with 'Nonbudsman'

Posted by uhyw at 10:41 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 11:17 PM EDT
Cindy Windy GLAD Bush Didn't Meet With Her
Mood:  silly
Now Playing: THE LATEST PEACENIK PACIFIST LIBTARD BULLSHIT
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

Sheehan Glad Bush Didn't Meet With Her

CRAWFORD, Texas - A woman who led an anti-war protest for nearly a month near President Bush's ranch said Tuesday that she's glad Bush never showed up to discuss her son's death in Iraq, saying the president's absence "galvanized the peace movement."

Cindy Sheehan's comments came as war protesters packed up their campsite near the ranch and prepared to leave Tuesday for a three-week bus tour.

"I look back on it, and I am very, very, very grateful he did not meet with me, because we have sparked and galvanized the peace movement," Sheehan told The Associated Press. "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there."

Sheehan and about 50 other peace activists arrived in the one- stoplight town Aug. 6, the day after she spoke at a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas. She and a few others spent that night in chairs in ditches, without food or flashlights, off the main road leading to the president's ranch.

The Vacaville, Calif., woman vowed to stay until Bush's monthlong vacation ended unless she could question him about the war that claimed the life of her 24-year-old son Casey and more than 1,870 other U.S. soldiers.

Two top Bush administration officials talked to Sheehan the first day, but the president never did _ although he has said that he sympathizes with her and acknowledged her right to protest. His vacation is to end Wednesday, two days early, so he can monitor federal efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

Sheehan's vigil attracted crowds of other anti-war demonstrators. Most stayed a few hours or days at the original roadside camp or at the second, larger site about a mile away on a private lot offered by a sympathetic landowner.

The massive response has transformed her life, she said.

"I thought our country was going down, down, down. I thought nobody cared about our children killed in the war, but millions care, and millions care about our country and want to make it better," she said. "The love and support I've received give me hope that my life can someday be normal."

The protest also sparked counter rallies by Bush supporters who accused Sheehan of using her son's death to push the liberal agenda of groups supporting her. Critics also said the anti-war demonstration was hurting U.S. troop morale while boosting the Iraqi insurgency.

Many Bush supporters pointed out that Sheehan never spoke against Bush or the war when she and other grieving families met the president about two months after her son died last year.

Sheehan said she was still in shock over Casey's death during that meeting. She said she became enraged after independent reports disputed Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons _ a main justification for the March 2003 invasion.

After leaving Crawford, protesters will spread their message on a three-week "Bring Them Home Now Tour" with stops in 25 states. Buses on three routes will meet in Washington, D.C., for a Sept. 24 anti-war march.

Sheehan will leave the tour next week to spend time with her family, including her mother who recently suffered a stroke, which caused Sheehan to miss a week of the protest. She plans to attend the march in the nation's capital, hoping to reunite with people who converged on the Texas roadside that came to be known as "Camp Casey."

"When I first started here, I was sitting in the ditch thinking, `What the heck did I do? Texas in August, the chiggers, fire ants, rattlesnakes, uncomfortable accommodations' _ but I'm going to be sad leaving here," Sheehan said. "I hope people will say that the Camp Casey movement sparked a peace movement that ended the war in Iraq."

On the Net: 'Cut and Run' Libtard Dumbass Crowd's "Bring Them Home Now Tour"

Breitbart ~ Associated Press - Angela K. Brown ** Sheehan Glad Bush Didn't Meet With Her

Posted by uhyw at 9:23 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 9:42 PM EDT
Consumer Confidence Rises Unexpectedly in August
Mood:  bright
Topic: News

Consumer Confidence Rises Unexpectedly in August

NEW YORK - Consumers reassured by the strengthening job market stayed optimistic in August despite the surging price of gasoline, giving a widely followed measure of consumer confidence an unexpected boost.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index, compiled from a survey of U.S. households, rose to 105.6 this month up from a revised 103.6 in July. The August figure was better than the 101 analysts expected.

"Consumers appear to be weathering the steady rise in gas prices quite well," Lynn Franco, director of private group's Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.

Wall Street had little reaction to the upbeat confidence report, with investors focusing on the impact of Katrina. In early afternoon, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 74.67, or 0.71 percent, to 10,388.38. The news didn't boost retail stocks. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s shares fell 46 cents to close at $45.19, while Target Corp.'s shares fell $1.58, or 2.8 percent, to close at $54.14 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The increase in confidence, which followed a drop in July, came as a surprise to economists with the average price of gas reaching $2.61 a gallon nationwide last week. Prices were expected to surge again this week as Hurricane Katrina affected refinery output in the Gulf of Mexico.

The upbeat confidence report is also in contrast to the sluggish sales pace seen at the nation's stores this month, with the International Council of Shopping Centers reporting Tuesday that sales decreased for the fourth straight week. Merchants are scheduled to report their August figures on Thursday. And while hot weather has wilted shoppers' appetite for fall clothing like sweaters, some analysts believe higher oil prices are starting to make middle-income consumers scale back on discretionary purchases.

Economists closely track consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity. With gas prices climbing, and heating costs also expected to be sharply higher this fall and winter, there have been concerns among economists and business owners that energy prices would prompt consumers to retrench. Up until now, consumers have been largely resilient to oil's upward trek, though low-income shoppers have reduced their spending over the last year, dampening sales at stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"It is important to look at what consumers are doing, not what they are saying," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, N.C. "And consumers are already starting to cut back on discretionary purchases." He believes one of the most vulnerable areas will be jewelry.

Vitner believes that while the confidence level is a fairly accurate assessment, the rise is misleading. "Consumers are still cautiously optimistic, and they will be severely tested by any further runup of oil prices," he said.

Whether job gains triumph over consumers' concerns over rising gasoline prices in the coming months remains to be seen, but the latest snapshot on consumer sentiment shows that they seem to be secure in the job market.

One component of the Conference Board report, which looks at consumers' views of the current economic situation, rose to 123.6, from 119.3, which was the highest level in nearly four years and was propelled by consumers' stronger confidence in the labor market. Another component, the Expectations Index, which measures consumers' outlook over the next six months, edged up to 93.7 from 93.2 last month.

The Conference Board index is derived from responses received through Aug. 23 to a survey mailed to 5,000 households in a consumer research panel. The figures released Tuesday include responses from at least 2,500 households.

Consumers' overall assessment of ongoing conditions was considerably more favorable in August. Those claiming business conditions are "good" increased to 29.8 percent from 28.7 percent. Those claiming conditions are "bad" slipped to 15.1 percent from 16.7 percent.

The employment picture was also upbeat. The number of consumers saying jobs are "hard to get" fell to 23.2 percent from 23.8 percent, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" rose to 23.5 percent from 22.9 percent. For the first time since October 2001, consumers claiming jobs are plentiful outnumber those claiming jobs are hard to get.

Consumers' short-term outlook improved marginally from July. The number of consumers anticipating business conditions to improve in the next six months increased to 18.7 percent from 17.9 percent. However, consumers expecting business conditions to worsen edged up to 9.7 percent from 9.5 percent.

The outlook for the labor market remains mixed. Those expecting more jobs to become available in the coming months increased to 16.6 percent from 15.6 percent. But those expecting fewer jobs also edged up to 17.2 percent from 16.7 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating their incomes to increase in the months ahead improved to 19.8 percent from 18.6 percent last month.

On the Net: The Conference Board

Tampa Bay Online ~ Associated Press - Anne D'innocenzio ** Consumer Confidence Rises Unexpectedly in August

Posted by uhyw at 8:55 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 9:04 PM EDT
Poll: Fewer See Democrats as Friendly Toward Religion
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

Poll: Fewer See Democrats as Friendly Toward Religion

WASHINGTON - Democrats' efforts to improve their image with religious voters after the 2004 presidential election appear to be getting off to a bumpy start.

Fewer people see Democrats as friendly to religion now than felt that way a year ago, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

That number has dropped from 40 percent in August 2004 who thought the Democrats were friendly to religion to 29 percent now.

"The change is seen across all groups," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, which conducted the poll for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

After Democrats fared poorly with religious voters in the 2004 election, the Democratic National Committee initiated numerous efforts to strengthen its standing with religious voters.

The DNC hired someone to coordinate religious outreach, encouraged state parties to work more closely with the religious community, and had Chairman Howard Dean meet with clergy and others in the religious community during his travels around the country.

"We're at the beginning," said Democratic spokeswoman Karen Finney, who said religious voters share many of the values of the Democratic Party. "But we know we need to do a better job of talking about our values in a way that people see we share their values."

More than half of those polled, 55 percent, said the Republican Party is friendly to religion.

A majority of political independents, 54 percent, said religious conservatives have too much influence over the GOP. Fewer than half of independents said those who are not religious have too much impact on the Democratic Party.

The poll of 2,000 adults was conducted July 7-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

On the Net: Pew Research Center

Tampa Bay Online ~ Associated Press - Will Lester ** Poll: Fewer See Democrats as Friendly Toward Religion

Posted by uhyw at 8:45 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 8:57 PM EDT
Poll: Cindy Windy's Protest Backfired
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: Lib Loser Stories

Poll: Sheehan's Protest Backfired

"Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan's Bush-bashing protest has apparently backfired, with a slight plurality of Americans saying her antics have actually made them more likely to support the Iraq war, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said Sheehan has had no impact on how they view the Iraq war.

But 10 percent say the tart-tongued Californian, who blames Israel for terrorism and said she wants to curse out the president to his face, has actually made them more pro-war.

A slightly smaller number, 9 percent, said Sheehan's protest helped turn them against U.S. efforts in Iraq, for a net pick-up of support for the Iraq war of one percent.

Among military families, the anti-Sheehan effect was even more pronounced, with 22 percent of military households saying the Peace Mom made them more likely to back the war - and just 17 percent moving in the other direction.

Rasmussen Reports ** 79% Say Iraq Mission Important

News Max.com ~ Carl Limbacher ** Poll: Sheehan's Protest Backfired

Posted by uhyw at 6:38 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 6:47 PM EDT
Palestinian Authority's US assets are frozen
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Yahoo Chat Stuff

Palestinian Authority's US assets are frozen

WASHINGTON - A Rhode Island lawyer trying to collect a $116 million terrorism judgment against the Palestinian Authority has obtained a court-ordered freeze on all its US-based assets, severely limiting most Palestinian economic and diplomatic activities in the United States at a critical moment for the fledgling government.

The frozen assets include US holdings in a $1.3 billion Palestinian investment fund meant to finance economic development as well as bank accounts used to pay Palestinian representatives in Washington, according to lawyers and court documents filed in Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., and New York. Also frozen are about $30 million in assets from the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Palestinian equivalent of the US Federal Reserve.

Providence attorney David Strachman, who is representing the orphaned children of a couple killed in Israel by Palestinian militants, has also initiated a court action to seize and sell the Palestinian-owned building in New York that serves as the Palestine Liberation Organization observer mission to the United Nations.

The aggressive collection effort comes as the Palestinian Authority is struggling to create economic opportunity and set up a viable government. Now, Palestinian officials say, the unpaid claim in the Rhode Island court, resulting from a 2004 ruling, threatens to complicate their efforts to become a credible emerging state.

But Strachman said if the Palestinian government wants to show the world that it is turning over a new leaf, it must obey the court's judgment.

"If you are a responsible party or entity or political organization, at the end of the day, you pay your judgment," Strachman said in a telephone interview from Israel, where he was on vacation. "They have very brazenly refused to pay."

The case puts the Bush administration in the delicate position of giving financial aid and political support to an entity that has refused to obey a US federal court order to pay terrorism victims.

The case has created such a problem for Palestinians that Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian finance minister, recently asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for advice, according to a Palestinian official who asked not to be identified. The State Department could not confirm Fayyad's request last night.

The Justice Department told a court in New York that it will submit next month the US government's position about the PLO mission in New York, but it is unclear how much help the Bush administration can or will offer.

"For the administration, it's difficult," said one Palestinian official speaking from Gaza, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case. "Right now, they are trying to figure out a creative way to deal with it without embarrassing anyone."

Palestinian officials have refused to pay the claim, arguing that doing so would be a politically dangerous admission of responsibility for terrorist acts by militants that the Palestinian Authority contends it does not control. Three officials interviewed by telephone from Gaza and the West Bank say they fear setting a precedent that would spur an avalanche of lawsuits that could bankrupt the new government. At least four other lawsuits involving deaths of US citizens in Palestinian attacks are pending in US courts.

But Strachman said that the Palestinians have billions in overseas banks, and that they are exaggerating the hardships that would be caused by paying the judgment.

The case is the first to result in a financial judgment under a 1991 antiterrorism law that allows US citizens to sue foreign organizations in civil court for terrorism. It stems from the 1996 murders of Brooklyn-born Yaron Ungar, a US citizen, and his pregnant Israeli wife, Efrat, whose car was sprayed with bullets by Hamas militants. Those convicted of the crime were found to be carrying uniforms issued by the Palestinian Authority, according to Strachman, who was appointed by an Israeli court to represent the couple's relatives.

In 2000, he filed a civil suit in Rhode Island, his home state. He sued Hamas, as well as then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, which Arafat headed, and the PLO on the grounds that they had encouraged Hamas. Arafat hired Ramsey Clark, the former attorney general, who argued that the Palestinian Authority is a sovereign state, and deserved immunity from prosecution granted to most countries.

Last year, the court ruled that Palestine is not a state, and that Hamas, the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority owed the Ungars $116 million. In March, a federal appeals court upheld the verdict.

In April, Strachman obtained a court order to freeze all the Palestinian government's assets in the United States, the first step to collecting by force. Since then, Strachman has been sending the court order to every US financial institution where the Palestinians might hold funds. Court proceedings are pending across the country to determine if the frozen assets truly belong to the Palestinian Authority or the PLO and should be handed over.

Since Arafat's death last year, a more politically savvy generation of Palestinian leaders has stepped up the legal battle for release of the assets, using more traditional arguments. Lawyers are arguing in a New York court that the Bank of New York should release $30 million in assets on the grounds that the Palestinian Monetary Authority is an independent entity. In another action, lawyers are using a UN agreement with the United States to fight the move to sell the PLO mission.

But the largely unpublicized court fight for the assets has taken a major toll, Palestinians say.

George T. Abed, the governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, wrote in an affidavit to the court in June that the freezing of Palestinian Monetary Authority assets had forced a halt of all Palestinian dollar transactions through the United States and could ''cause a banking crisis in the Palestinian territories with possible fallout elsewhere in the region." The Monetary Authority provides financial backing for banks in Palestinian territory.

The unpaid claim has also brought a diplomatic price. It has frustrated Palestinian efforts to send a new ambassador to Washington because the envoy would have no functioning bank account, according to two of the Palestinian officials based in the West Bank.

Staff at the PLO mission in Washington have not been paid for three months, according to Said Hamad, a senior member of the PLO mission in Washington.

"Unless the mission is able to use these funds, . . . it will be necessary to close the mission with attendant injuries to Palestine and its people and negative consequences to peace in the Middle East," Clark's legal team wrote in a motion earlier this month.

Court documents show that the Bank of New York has halted money transfers to Palestinian missions in Ukraine, Guinea, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Ivory Coast, China, Bulgaria, Norway, Pakistan, and Colombia, as well as New York, because of the court order.

The case could also hamper US government aid. Last month, the US government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation voted to contribute $110 million to a project that would give loan guarantees to small businesses in Gaza. But the Palestinian Investment Fund -- whose US assets have been frozen by the court order -- is required to make a substantial contribution of its money as a condition for launching the project.

A State Department official who asked not to be identified said the lawsuit had not yet prevented US aid from flowing to the Palestinians, but that he did not know whether it would be an obstacle.

Representative Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who is also running for mayor in New York City, has called for the US government to halt aid to the Palestinian Authority until the claim is paid. "If they wish to continue receiving checks from the US government, the Palestinian Authority needs to pay the Ungar family what they are owed," Weiner said in a statement last week. "We must make sure this ruling is enforced to make sure that there is accountability."

Palestinians say that Strachman is going after the very funds that have recently been made public in celebrated reforms meant to curb corruption and terrorism funding. But Strachman and his legal team say they should stop making excuses and pay.

"We're looking for money," said Robert Tolchin, a New York-based lawyer working with Strachman. "If you create a cost for doing wrong, people will be motivated to stop doing wrong."

The Boston Globe ~ Farah Stockman ** Palestinian Authority's US assets are frozen

Posted by uhyw at 5:39 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2005 5:50 PM EDT

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