Morning Report: March 27, 2006

Moscow synogogue attacker sentenced to 13 years. AP via Ha'Aretz: ' The Moscow City Court on Monday sentenced a man who attacked worshippers in a synagogue with a hunting knife to 13 years in prison and mandatory psychiatric treatment. The court found Alexander Koptsev guilty of attempted murder on racist grounds for stabbing and wounding nine men in January at the Moscow synagogue.' (AP via Ha'Aretz)

Russians' photo op with Saddam. Gateway Pundit reports on high-ranking Russian officers photographed with Saddam Hussein, just before the start of the recent Iraq war: 'Iraqi Defence Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed hands an award to Russian Igor Maltsev, rated as one of the best Russian experts in the sphere of operating air-defense systems. (Gazeta)' (Gateway Pundit)

Of flags and Trafalgar Square. Many photographs were also taken at the free speech rally in London's Trafalgar Square. Andrew Apostolou at Michael Totten's blog observes: 'One of the ways in which the police in repressive societies intimidate people is by turning up at protest meetings and taking pictures of them. What, then, are we supposed to make of this behaviour in London yesterday? Note that this is the same Metropolitan Police that did nothing about demonstrators who incited to violence in May 2005 and then only responded in February 2006 after a public outcry. ...' The Belmont Club has more, and cites a news item: 'British police officers speak to Iranian Reza Moradi, 29, who displayed a banner containing the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, at a demonstration rally supporting freedom of expression in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday March 25, 2006.' (various)

"Iraq forces targeted terrorists, didn't enter mosque." Via Lucianne, Bloomberg reports: 'Iraqi forces targeted a terrorist cell during an operation yesterday in a Shiite neighborhood of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and didn't enter a mosque in the area, the U.S. military said in a statement. ``Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and coalition forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians,'' the U.S. military said in a statement e-mailed late yesterday from Baghdad. ``No mosques were entered or damaged.'' The statement contradicts claims by an official in Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's Dawa Party, who said 16 people killed in the operation were in the mosque, according to Agence France-Presse.' Full details at the link. (Bloomberg via Lucianne)

Pakistan news roundup at Plus Ultra. Plus Ultra (Banned in Pakistan) has a roundup of headlines from Pakistan: OIC summit demanded against blasphemy; Pakistani tribesmen stone Afghan consulate; Resistance movements urged to unite for Communist renaissance; Stereotyped concept of women’s role hinders justice; and much, much more. Read it at the link - and if you're in Pakistan, don't get caught. (Plus Ultra)

CTB on suspected Abu Sayyef strike. The Counterterrorism Blog: 'The Abu Sayyaf is suspected in detonating a bomb in the southern Philippines island of Jolo, which killed 9 and wounded 20. Some 2,000 US forces conducted a joint training exercise with their Filipino counterparts there earlier this month. A small contingent of US advisors and trainers is based in Zamboanga, where a bomb was detonated killing one, outside of the military base.' (CTB)

Japan report: China military buildup destabilizing. The Intelligence Summit reports: 'China’s growing military strength and its tense relationship with Taiwan are major destabilizing factors in East Asia, according to a strategy report issued on March 27 by a think tank affiliated with Japan’s Defence Ministry. ... In an annual report on East Asian strategy, the National Institute for Defence Studies, a government-funded think tank, warned of China’s military buildup and its growing pressure on Taiwan under independence-minded President Chen Shui-bian. ... China’s 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest standing military, and Beijing said earlier this month that its official defense budget would rise to 283.8 billion yuan ($35 billion) in 2006, up 14.7 percent from 2005.' Full report at the link. (TIS)

Minnesota move attacks gays' partnership rights. Duluth News Tribune: 'It won't ban gay marriage, because that's already banned. But the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution could change some other things, legal experts say. The amendment's language would open the door for legal challenges to the benefits and arrangements that unmarried couples -- gay and straight -- use for themselves and their families, legal experts believe. "It's not simply outlawing same-sex marriage; it does more than that," said Beverly Bales, a law professor at the University of Minnesota. Health-care coverage for unmarried partners could be challenged, especially at state-funded institutions like the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis' domestic- partnership registry may not survive. Even legal contracts between unmarried partners may face challenges, some scholars say, affecting health-care directives, insurance claims and financial arrangements -- although others dismiss that concern.' (Duluth News Tribune)