U.S. & Russian Sting Operation Nets UK Arms Dealer

A British citizen was arrested in Newark, New Jersey yesterday for allegedly trying to sell a shoulder-fired missile to an undercover agent. Two Afghan men allegedly connected to the plot were also arrested in New York.

The Los Angeles Times identified the arms dealer as Hemad Lakhani, an Englishman of Indian descent.

The FBI along with British and Russian agents have been involved with the case since October, when the man bought a disarmed missile from Russian officials.

He was then allowed, with help from U.S. agents, to transport the missile into the U.S. Once he was in the U.S. he attempted to sell the missile to U.S. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda. It was a complex double sting operation, says the government.

The BBC reports it’s unlikely the man would have ever been able to smuggle the missile into the United States, if he wasn’t being duped by U.S. agents. The Washington Post quotes an official saying "There is no credible information that terrorists are in control of these kinds of missiles in this country".

Officials also disputed notions that the arms dealer was motivated out of support for Al Qaeda. The unnamed official noted the man was not a Muslim and said "I think he was out for the buck. He just wanted to make some money."

Some governmental officials alleged the real significance of the case was not that they’d caught a low level arms dealer but that U.S. and Russian agents were able to work so closely on the case.

While most papers ran the arrest on page one, the Washington Post downplayed the entire incident. It appears on the 28th page in today’s newspaper.

Suicide Attacks Condemned by Israelis & Palestinians

Palestinian and Israeli leaders yesterday joined together to condemn the pair of suicide attacks, which killed two Israelis and wounded many others on Tuesday.

Although the attacks occurred 40 minutes apart, Israeli officials said yesterday they did not appear to be coordinated.

One of the bombings was claimed by Hamas and the other by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Muslim Group Protest Bush Plan To Give Recess Appointment to “Islamaphobe”

Despite protests from Muslim groups, President Bush is expected to sidestep Congress and directly appoint controversial Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes to the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace.

Congressional sources told Reuters yesterday Pipes will receive a recess appointment from Bush.

Pipes’ nomination had been stalled in the Senate for months.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the move "a defeat for democracy and an affront to Muslims, Arab Americans and all those who seek peace. Hooper went on to say, "Pipes’ appointment would call into question all of President Bush’s previous statements claiming that the war on terrorism is not an attack on Islam."

Pipes has been called the country’s leading Islamophobe. He claims up to 15 percent of Muslims are "potential killers." He says Muslim government police officers, soldiers and diplomats "need to be watched for connections to terrorism."

US Military Families Launch ‘Bring Them Home Now’ Campaign

A group of about 600 U.S. military families are launching a campaign today to call on Congress and President Bush to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq now. The group has set up a website bringthemhomenow.com that features letters from troops in Iraq and their loved homes here in the United States.

Chile to pay torture victims

This news from Chile: president Ricardo Lagos has announced a plan to pay compensation to thousands of families who had relatives killed during the military regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

Pinochet oversaw the killing of at least 3000 Chileans during his reign as well as many others which lasted from 1973 to 1990. His coup was backed by then-President Nixon and Secretary of State National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger.

Judge: U.S. Likely Executing Innocent People

In a decision issued Monday, a federal judge in Boston wrote the U.S. is likely executing innocent people but he declined to rule the death penalty unconstitutional.

The judge, Mark Wolf, wrote: "In the past decade, substantial evidence has emerged to demonstrate that innocent individuals are sentenced to death, and undoubtedly executed, much more than previously understood."

CEOs Reap Tens of Millions From Bush Tax Cut Plan

The Wall Street Journal is reporting some of the nation’s highest paid CEO’s will reap tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks under Bush’s new plan that slashes the tax rate on dividends. The Journal estimates Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, will earn $80 million more, the CEO of Viacom, which owns CBS, Sumner Redstone, will make $40 million, and Sandy Weill, head of Citigroup, will take an additional $17 million.

Study: Agent Orange Still in Vietnamese Food Supply

A new study in Vietnam has found Agent Orange used by U.S. troops still contaminates food supplies in Vietnam. The study found "markedly elevated" levels of Dioxin TCDD in samples of chickens, ducks, pork, beef and fish. Vietnam estimates 1 million people were exposed to Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. from 1962-1971.

13 Plowshare Activists Arrested in Maine

In Maine over the weekend 13 Plowshares activists were arrested at a protest outside Bath Iron Works where the shipyard was unveiling its newest destroyer. Among those arrested, Elizabeth McAlister of Baltimore. The peace protesters also christened their own peace ship dedicated to McAlister’s late husband, Philip Berrigan, one of the founders of the Plowshares movement.

Striking Workers In Venezuela Shut Down Halliburton Plant

In Venezuela, striking workers have shut down a drilling plant operated by the U.S. company Halliburton. The workers claimed Halliburton, which was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney before he ran for office, had withheld back wages.

15 Die in Afghan Bus Blast

And finally, this news just in from Afghanistan. At least 15 people have died in an explosion that tore apart a bus in Southern Afghanistan. It’s not known who carried out the attack, but the area has seen an increase in violence caused by the newly reformed Taliban. Meanwhile, Afghan troops have shot dead eight suspected militants along the Pakistan border.

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