South News Sept 5 
Greens condemn pastoral land grab 

Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown slammed John Howard's 10-point plan Wik plan as a monstrous land grab despite the government sales pitch that the bill is a compromise between the interests of miners and pastoralists on one hand, and Aboriginal people on the other. 

"There is no nicety or cover-up or embarrassment about this monstrous land grab such as Australia has never seen before, not even in the age of squatters and colonial land grants. Mr Howard's hinterland clearance of Aboriginal rights is Australia's version of the highland clearances," Brown said. 

"It's handing 42% of Australia which is currently under leasehold to less than 20,000 people, including a strong contingent of millionaires and billionaires, like Kerry Packer and Janet Holmes a'Court, and in the process it's leaving Aboriginal people with less access to land," said Bob Brown of the 10-point plan entitled the Native Title Amendment Bill which was tabled in parliament on Thursday. 

The leaseholders -- "without paying a penny" -- are getting a far greater ability to use and abuse that land, Brown said. "Instead of cattle grazing, they're going to be able to extend into any form of land use." 

The 10-point plan and resulting bill have been rejected by native title representative bodies, which met in a national workshop in early August, for failing to recognise the fundamental relationship between the land and the maintenance of Aboriginal culture. 

"Mr Howard's plan opens the way for this vast region to be converted from leasehold -- that is rented property restricted to cattle-grazing, to effective freehold -- with far wider potential uses, without Aboriginal permission," Brown said. 

"Mr Howard's 10-point plan provides for a transfer of money as well as land -- where required, compensation is to be paid by the taxpayers of Australia to the dispossessed Aboriginal people. So the rich landholders take it free of charge, and the taxpayers foot the bill," Brown said. 

New Israeli laws to confiscate Arab land smack of apartheid 

Israel has introduced a series of new decisions and regulations that are aimed at taking over more Arab land in the occupied West Bank as well as inside Israel itself. The measures, including a significant increase in Green Patrols that monitor Arab activities in cultivated lands, are meant to limit access to those lands by Palestinians. 

The measures, announced Tuesday night, also include speedy legal procedures against alleged illegal construction in Arab sectors and declaring vast areas of lands as closed military training zones, entrance to which will be strictly forbidden to Palestinians. The measures also aim at restricting access to lands to Palestinians living inside Israel as well. 

As part of the new measures taken by the prime minister's office, the government decided to reactivate the ministerial committee for Jewish settlements, which has not held any meetings since Benjamin Netanyahu took office in June last year. The committee's job will be to centralize efforts by various Jewish bodies to set up new Jewish farms and cultivated areas with the aim of aborting any attempts by Arabs to enter those lands. 

The, new measures worked out by Netanyahu's bureau chief, Avigdor Lieberman reactivates a former settlement plan implemented by ex-housing minister Ariel Sharon a few years ago when the Likud was in power under Yitzhak Shamir. At the time, Sharon suggested a cluster of new settlements be built across the so-called Green Line, the pre-1967 borders, on the West Bank where seven settlements were erected and given the name of Kochav Yair. However Lieberman said his plan aims to allow a small number of Jews to take over vast areas of lands, unlike the Sharon plan which meant making a small area of land highly populated by Jews. 

Dr. Azmi Bishara, head of the National Democratic Party in Israel, said the plan "is but a racist scheme which proves that Lieberman still lives in the days of apartheid." He said the Israeli government, by means of the new plan, has allowed itself the right to confiscate vast areas of lands from their Arab owners, to declare them closed zones and then to use them for building housing projects for Jews. "When Arabs want to invest in their own land, the state claims they are stealing land which is not theirs, but when Jews take over Arab land, the state calls that a legitimate construction," he said. 

Israeli laws in general state that it is the government's right to declare as public property any area of land whose owner is unknown. Under this article, thousands of dunums of Arab land, whose owners fled their country after the 1948 war, had become of "ambiguous ownership" and as such became a target for Israeli confiscation. According to recent statistics, more than half the total area of the West Bank is considered "public property" which is under Israel's direct control. 

CARE  warns of starvation in Iraq  

Iraq's oil-for-food deal approved by the United Nations is not meeting that country's needs and people there are starving, an Australian based relief agency said Tuesday. 

CARE International released a statement saying the deal approved last December was not bringing enough food and medicine to Iraq's people and that "children, the sick and other vulnerable groups are facing starvation and death.'' 

Lockton Morrissey, CARE's Middle East regional manager, said in Amman, Jordan that, "Children, mothers, the aged and sick were all cared for before 1990, but are now dying while the outside world mistakenly believes it has solved Iraq's problems with the much-delayed oil-for-food shipments.'' The deal "will barely keep the strongest of the population of Iraq on their feet,'' he said. 

Morrissey, who returned from a 10-day visit to Iraq last week, said conditions were worsening in Iraq despite the U.N. program. "Diseases, malnutrition and dehydration have gone up, while infrastructure, water quality, health services, medical supplies and the value of people's wages have gone down,'' he said. 

Morrissey called for an "urgent reevaluation of the world's policy toward Iraq to ensure humanitarian needs are fully met.'' Under the terms of the deal, Iraq can sell $1 billion of oil every three months to pay for food and medicine for its 20 million people, with part of the money going to war reparations. Before the Gulf War, it earned an estimated $16 billion every year from its crude sales. 

In other news Argentinean soccer superstar Diego Maradona will play in Iraq for free to protest the UN economic sanctions against that country. Maradona's manager, Sebastien Menendez, said the soccer player would pay for his own trip to Baghdad so he could "share with the Iraqi children and people their ordeal," according to an Iraqi News Agency. Maradona wants to visit Iraq to show that the economic "siege" of Iraq is a "silent deadly bomb. 

The UN’s arms envoy Richard Butler will arrive in Iraq today to assess results of a month-long inspection of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Butler visit is in preparation for an October report to the UN Security Council. 

Jo Lomas, special assistant to the director of the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) center said Butler, the new Australian chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) would meet Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz before he leaves on Tuesday. 

Lomas said Butler would evaluate the results of a month-long arms inspection that he had agreed on with Aziz late in July. Some six UN inspection teams have visited Iraq since then and carried out several inspections and met with Iraqi officials. Head of OMV Nils Carlstrom said last week the teams that visited Iraq in the past month had completed ``very important'' work to close remaining gaps in Iraq's prohibited weapons. Iraq has been under UN sanctions  since August 1990. 

Castro inaugurates new school year 

Despite US rumours of his death Cuban President Fidel Castro presided over the official ceremony opening the new school year Monday in Havana. 

In his speech at the ceremony opening the new school year, the Cuban leader pointed out that 55,000 more students are enrolled in secondary schools this year -- a fact that brings with it new challenges for the country's educational system. Fidel said that during these difficult circumstances, teachers play a decisive role. Without education and the work of the Revolution throughout these years, Socialism would not have survived in Cuba. 

Fidel said that despite the difficult economic conditions of the Special Period, not a single Cuban child has been left without a school and that education, as always, is free of charge. The Cuban president said that this a marked contrast with that of other Third World countries, including developed nations. 

"And what is more, no country -- without exception -- has a higher per capita rate of teachers to students than Cuba. This is very different from the situation that we see in other Latin American countries and many countries of the world -- where police are in the streets, armed with clubs and shields, beating striking teachers, students and workers. And this isn't only the situation in Latin America, but also in developed capitalist countries, including Europe." 

Fidel Castro also spoke about a very different situation in the world -- totally unknown to Cuban school children... a world in which children live in the streets and are the victims of prostitution and deceit. The Cuban president stressed that laws protecting children have been strengthened, new teachers are being trained and vocational/pedagogical schools are being created. At the same time, the country continues working to instill values in its children and young people. 

Cuban President Fidel Castro said that during these difficult circumstances, teachers play a decisive role. Without education and the work of the Revolution throughout these years, Socialism would not have survived in Cuba. 

"They are hoping that when the generation that began the Revolution disappears, everything will change. They think that one day, these ideas and values will disappear, just as they did unfortunately, sadly, terribly... in other countries. No matter who dies -- and every so often they kill some of us... but we don't even bother to respond! That would create problems... because one day we will die. And when that happens, how will we convince people that it is true? That is what life has taught us, that is what history has taught us... and those who have built this Revolution will defend it until our very last breath. We will defend our ideas until the last minute. We will defend our just cause, our Socialism, our country. And that is why we say, with so much conviction: Homeland or Death! Socialism or Death! Venceremos!" 

A total of two million 300 thousand students went to their classrooms and more than 197,000 teachers -- one of the most revered professions in Cuba -- welcomed their students across the island this morning. Cuba holds the world's record in teacher to student ratio -- with one teacher for every 45 inhabitants. At last night's inaugural ceremony marking the beginning of the 1997-'98 school year, student leaders and representatives of the Ministry of Education pointed to the fact that Cuba is undergoing the most severe economic crisis in its history. They emphasized that despite the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the eastern European Socialist countries, combined with an ever tightening U.S. blockade against Cuba -- not one school has been closed and there are no teachers without classrooms. 

 Source:  Radio Havana 

Pentagon to revive star wars 

In a revival of Reagan stars wars program the U.S. Army want to try out one of the world's most powerful lasers to see if it can hit a military satellite, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The laser, called Miracl (Mid-infrared Advance Chemical Laser), is at White Sands Missile Range in the New Mexico desert has already fired it at ground targets, speeding drones and rockets in flight. But it had been banned from firing at satellites until 1995, when the Republican-controlled Congress let the ban expire. 

The developers of the nation's most powerful military laser are seeking permission to fire the laser's beam into space at a $60 million Air Force satellite in what military officials say would be the first test of its kind. The test, planned for later this month, is part of perfecting a weapon that could demolish satellites and other spacecraft, an ability that the Pentagon regards as crucial in time of war. 

Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said it would be premature to predict how dramatic or successful any experiment would be. "It's a long way to shoot a laser. It is a powerful laser but it's difficult to shoot lasers a long distance through the atmosphere. One of the things the department will have to look at is whether this is the way we would want to go and if this is a technically feasible project," he added. 

Miracl is a spinoff of the space race weapons developed by the Pentagon to shoot down enemy missiles in its Star Wars program, which the Reagan administration began in 1983 and has cost $40 billion. In late 1988, during its final days, the Reagan administration decided to improve Miracl so the laser could fire at satellites. That work was mainly done in 1989 and 1990. Congress subsequently banned any such test of the improved laser. 

"If the test took place ... it would give us some data on the vulnerability of our own satellites and secondly on space control systems that we might be able to develop in the future if we wanted to develop them," he said. This was in line with a policy of securing freedom of action in space for the United States and the means to deny such freedom to the country's adversaries, he said. 

The military wants an anti-satellite weapon mainly to stop enemies with orbital cameras from spying on American weapons and troops during combat. For years, the United States dominated space-based reconnaissance, but recently other countries and even private companies have begun efforts to loft their own spy satellites, with the companies seeking to market high-quality satellite photos. 

But advocates of arms control say the test is likely to set off a race for new space weapons that will ultimately endanger the nation's own satellites."Shooting a satellite is shooting ourselves in the foot," said John Pike, the director of space policy for the Federation of American Scientists. "The United States is extremely dependent on intelligence satellites that our adversaries, like Iraq, could shoot down. But Iraq doesn't have any satellites for us to shoot down." 

Like all chemical lasers, Miracl gets its energy by burning fuels similar to those in rocket engines. Much energy is lost as heat, but large amounts are extracted by mirrors and resonant chambers and emerge as a concentrated beam of light. 

The beam is about six feet wide. Although its exact strength is a classified secret, the military says the laser is "megawatt class," meaning its beam has a million watts of energy or more. The laser usually destroys its targets by subjecting them to intense heat. Miracl is said by the military authorities to be slightly more powerful than Alpha, a space laser under development in California that is rated at 2.2 million watts of energy. 

September eclipses 

There will be a total lunar eclipse super moon in the evening of September 16 in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. It occurs in the same constellation as this total year's solar eclipse of March 9. The eclipse appears in the Middle East with the rising of the full moon just after sunset. 

In the Gulf, the lunar eclipse, including the penumbral phase, will extend from 8.12pm on September 16 until 1.21am on September 17, UAE time. The moon will be totally eclipsed between 10.15pm and 11.17pm on September 16. It will also be clearly visible from from India and Pakistan. At greatest eclipse (12:17 am IST), the umbral magnitude reaches a value of 1.200 with the Moon in the zenith from the Indian Ocean. The Moon's northern limb then passes within 6 arc-minutes of the umbra's centre while the southern limb lies 7 arc-minutes inside the shadow's edge. 

The lunar eclipse follows this week’s partial solar eclipse on September 2. The eclipse was visible in Australia at 10am AEST.This is the fifty-third eclipse of Saros series 125. The series produced its last central eclipse in 1979 and is winding down with a series of partial eclipses of progressively decreasing magnitude. The series ends with a partial eclipse in 2358. Next year's ascending node solar eclipse will occur on August 22 and will be an annular one and visible in South East Asia 

The last total solar eclipse on the century will occur in Europe on August 11 1999. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in the Atlantic and crosses central Europe, the Middle East, and India where it ends at sunset in the Bay of Bengal. The first major capital city to be totally blackened out are the northern suburbs of Paris. It is rapidly becoming known as the Cassini eclipse as it coincides with NASA's plutonium laden space probe Cassini's flyby of the earth. The Saturn space probe was named after Jean Dominique Cassini (1612-1725) an Italian born Paris based astronomer. NASA says in its First Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission, that if an "inadvertent reentry occurred" during the fly-by, approximately five billion of the seven to eight billion people on Earth, "could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure." 

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