Morning Report: January 4, 2006

Freedom for Egyptians: US press roundup. Freedom for Egyptians has an excellent analysis of recent American media coverage of Egyptian/US relations. Citing recent articles from the New York Post, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, FFE also notes an ominous silence surrounding Washington's stance toward Cairo: 'Reading the three articles apparently the American public opinion is beating the drums for pressuring the Bush Administration towards more firm measures towards the Mubarak ruling in Egypt that is proving its failure to heed to the U.S. calls to apply true political reform towards democracy and freedom. The Egyptian-US relationship is witnessing unprecedented silence over the past few months. The U.S. has started sending the messages decently when President Bush said in his famous speech in November 2003 that Egypt "has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East and now can show the way toward democracy in the Middle East." Actually, it was Iraq with the help of the US that was capable of showing the first budding democracy in the Middle East with exception to Israel. The message did not go through though. Then U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice paid a visit to Egypt last summer to give another signal that the U.S. is taking democracy in the Middle East seriously. The tone of the three reviewed articles is directly addressing the Egyptian President as the main obstcale in front of democracy and freedom in Egypt ...' Read the whole thing, and don't forget to bookmark Freedom For Egyptians. (FFE)

CTB: Pakistan arrests al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. The Counter-Terrorism Blog: 'There are news reports that Pakistan arrested Ghulam Mustafa, a.k.a. Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, in Lahore 10 days ago. Tabassum is a leader in the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group, which is linked to Al Qaeda.' Full story at the link, with more links. (CTB)

CNET: Microsoft censors Chinese blogger. CNET reports: 'Microsoft has admitted to removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local laws. The blog, written by Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, was removed from MSN servers on Dec. 31, according to investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon. She claimed that the blog was actively removed by MSN staff rather than being blocked by Chinese authorities. A Microsoft representative told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it blocked Anti's MSN Space blog to help ensure that the service complied with local laws in China. ...' More at the link. (CNET)

Pyongyang exports slavery. Via Discarded Lies, the LA Times reports: 'Hundreds of young North Korean women are working in garment and leather factories like this one, easing a labor shortage in small Czech towns. Their presence in this recent member of the European Union is something of a throwback to before the Velvet Revolution of 1989, when Prague, like Pyongyang, was a partner in the Communist bloc. The North Korean government keeps most of the earnings, apparently one of the few legal sources of hard currency for an isolated and impoverished government believed to be living off counterfeiting, drug trafficking and weapons sales. Experts estimate that there are 10,000 to 15,000 North Koreans working abroad in behalf of their government in jobs ranging from nursing to construction work. In addition to the Czech Republic, North Korea has sent workers to Russia, Libya, Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia and Angola, defectors say. Almost the entire monthly salary of each of the women here, about $260, the Czech minimum wage, is deposited directly into an account controlled by the North Korean government, which gives the workers only a fraction of the money. To the extent that they are allowed outside, they go only in groups. ...' Read the rest of this horrifying and heartbreaking story at the link.

Israel army chief: IRI nukes can be destroyed. Regime Change Iran quotes a Dow Jones bulletin: 'Israeli military chief Dan Halutz Tuesday said Iran's nuclear program "can be destroyed," Israel's Army Radio said. The report quoted Halutz as making the comments during a conference at Tel Aviv University. ' Meanwhile, Hyscience cites a report from the Guardian: 'The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes. Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes. ...' (RCI; Guardian via Hyscience)

Debka: Syrian intel chief flees to London. Latest from Debka: 'Retired General Ali Duba, known as father of Syrian intelligence and loyal aide of Presidents Assad father and son has fled to London from Damascus. This defection follows the blunt charges leveled against Bashar Assad by former Syrian vice president Khalam Haddam last Friday, and the UN inquiry commission’s demand that the Syrian president make himself available for questioning in the Hariri assassination.' (Debka)

"Beyond the Mafia regimes." Syrian heretic Amarji: 'Corruption is the Number One obstacle in the face of development in our haggard part of the world. Entrenched regimes which act more like mafia conglomerates than actual governments can never produce the sort of reforms needed to help bridge the Development Gap separating us from the rest of the world. Therefore, those of us who are seriously interested in seeing this region living up to its full potential in terms of being able to provide for the material wellbeing of its various peoples have the awesome responsibility of trying to build alternatives to existing regimes from the ground up. ...' Be sure to follow the link to Dar Emar. (Amarji)

Ed on Abramoff scandal. Captain's Quarters reacts to the Abramoff scandal. Among his conclusions: 'The most significant development from this scandal will be the almost-certain disqualification for serious Presidential runs by anyone currently on the Hill, including Hill(ary) herself. Abramoff's stench will touch everyone currently noted for front-runner status, except possibly the most radical of Democrats, such as John Kerry -- who isn't going to get a second chance anyway. The next President of the US will be someone in a governor's seat now, and someone who hasn't served in Congress before. It could very well be Mitt Romney against Bill Richardson or Mark Warner. We'll see how it develops, but if the Abramoff corruption goes as deep as prosecutors say, look for an unprecedented series of power shifts in the next two cycles -- not partisan, but demographic, as American voters start looking for fresh choices.' (Captain's Quarters)

UPDATE: Fausta at the Bad Hair Blog has lots more links on the Abramoff scandal, and other important issues of the day. Go catch Fausta, who picks up where Morning Report leaves off.