Powered By Miaoxiao!

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced it was launching protests outside stores in New York and Milan after lobbying Benetton for more than a year to stop using Australian merino wool in its production of high-end jumpers, suits and other apparel.

Australia’s wool industry has been branded by PETA as ‘one of the most violent industries” for the use of a technique called ‘mulesing’, in which loose skin is cut away underneath the tail of sheep to prevent blowfly strike.

“Mulesing is entirely unique to Australia,” PETA’s campaign coordinator Matt Prescott said according to the Herald Sun daily.

“There are wool growers in Australia that don’t use mulesing. It’s a practice that could be phased out today,” he added.

In October, the major US retailer Abercrombie & Fitch succumbed to pressure from PETA and agreed to boycott Australian wool.

The loss prompted Australian woolgrowers on November 8 to agree to completely phase-out mulesing by 2010.

With 5,000 stores worldwide, Benetton reported net revenue of €1.241 million ($AUD 2.183 million) in the nine months to September 2004 and each year the group produces 110 million garments.

The prospect of losing such a major business interest would be a huge blow to Australian woolgrowers.

The wool group, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), commenced legal proceedings to challenge PETA’s activities bringing a case against the animal rights group in Sydney’s Federal Court earlier this month.

The AWI has alleged that PETA is in breach of the boycott provision of the Trade Practices Act through its exertion of pressure on clothing retailers to stop using Australian wool.

However, PETA iss pre-empting that action with the launch of a graphic campaign outside Benetton’s New York store, located on the corner of 5th and 49th Avenues in busy downtown Manhattan.

According to the report by the Herald Sun, massive panels with pictures of ‘mutilated Australian lambs’ will be set up between noon and 1pm to catch the attention of lunchtime crowds.

The screens will carry the tagline ‘Benetton is Baaad to Sheep’.

Pedestrians and customers will also be asked to view a video entitled ‘United Cruelty of Benetton’ and to agree to boycott Benetton outlets.

PETA is also preparing a similar boycott this week outside Benetton’s head store in Milan.

The Weekend Australian newspaper said officials from Tokyo and Canberra had discussed joint military exercises in Australia as Japan moved to revise its pacifist constitution.

The newspaper said the talks had not reached ministerial level and Defence Minister Robert Hill said no formal proposal had been received from Tokyo.

The Weekend Australian said some veterans viewed the prospect of Japanese troops training in Australian as an insult to the memory of comrades subjected to atrocities as prisoners of war during World War II.

“I can’t forget and I can’t forgive because what the Japanese did to us was brutal and totally unnecessary,” former POW Perce Curvey told the newspaper.

Former government minister Tom Uren, also an ex-POW, said he bore no grudge against Japan but did not feel Australia should encourage its military resurgence.

“It seems to me a very foolish decision for us to start having joint military activities with Japanese on our soil,” he told Sky News.

“Where else in Asia would Japan have joint manoeuvres with anyone else, there’s sensitivity everywhere where Japanese militarism’s involved.”

Mr Uren said the issue remained relevant because of Tokyo’s refusal to acknowledge war crimes during World War II and the presence of ultra-nationalists in Japan hoping to re-establish the nation as a major military power.

“There is a large element within Japan that wants to return to the position before the last war,” he said.

The Weekend Australian said China, Australia’s fastest growing trade partner, would also take a dim view of joint exercises with Japan.

China Friday expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with new Japanese defence guidelines which point to Beijing as a potential threat.

Managing editor Jim Kelly wrote that Time chose President Bush “for sticking to his guns and for reshaping the rule of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters” in this year’s presidential election of his suitability to lead the nation for a second four year term.

Son of former US president George Bush Snr, who also received the honour of Time’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1990, George W Bush pushed aside a field that included filmmakers Mel Gibson and Michael Moore, the members of the US September 11 commission, and even God – in recognition of the rising prominence of religious values in America.

The award recognises the person or persons who most affected the news and people’s lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse, according to the Time’s managing editor.

George W Bush was previously named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ in 2000, the year he first won the US presidency

From controversial beginnings in 2000, when a tight contest with Democratic Senator Al Gore saw the nation become embroiled in a debate over vote counting which reached the US Supreme Court, to the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and his subsequent ‘war on terror’, President Bush has often drawn fire from critics.

Something the US leader was prepared to acknowledge in his interview with Time.

“My presidency is one that has drawn some fire, whether it be at home or around the world. Unfortunately, if you’re doing big things, most of the time you’re never going to be around to see them (to fruition), whether it be cultural change or spreading democracy in parts of the world where people just don’t believe it can happen,” Mr Bush said.

Abroad, George W Bush has carved out an uncompromising foreign policy punctuated by the launch of offensives in Afghanistan in late 2001 and Iraq last year, where he showed himself willing to engage in pre-emptive military action despite international opposition.

His election victory last month, though, contrasts with a drop in popularity which has taken a battering as the violence in Iraq continues unabated, now claiming 1,300 American lives and many more Iraqis.

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq also raised doubts about the purpose of America’s presence there.

At home, the president has hammered out a conservative agenda, bringing in sweeping tax cuts and education reforms, and clashing with Democrats over the environment and judicial appointments.

But it is also the president’s style of leadership that has gained attention, purveying an image of being ‘average’.

In a speech to Yale students in 2001 he memorably made light of his academic record saying: “To the ‘C’ students I say: You, too, can be president of the United States.”

As the president looks ahead to his second inauguration ceremony next month, he has also done some reflecting on the past four years.

In his own assessment of his first administration President Bush said: “I would suspect at this point, if I had to think of themes, one would be the effect of freedom on the world. Maybe at home, how to achieve results-oriented government, or compassionate conservative agenda.”

On Sunday the Queensland opposition issued a 24-hour deadline for the Premier, Peter Beattie, to sack Ms Clark or have the matter referred to the state’s Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).

Acting opposition leader Jeff Seeney said Monday would provide the first opportunity to refer the matter to the CMC, and that the matter would be followed up then.

The furore has centred on claims Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner and Carpentaria Land Council chief executive Brad Foster had airfares paid for by the minister’s department on a trip to accompany her on meetings with Palm Island residents on December 17th.

Mr Yanner failed to travel on from Townsville to the island, however, Mr Foster completed the journey.

Pressure began to mount after Mr Yanner reportedly alleged that Ms Clark’s senior adviser, Bruce Picard, told Mr Yanner and Mr Foster to say publicly they were required to reimburse the airfares, although they would not have to pay them, according to the Weekend Australian newspaper.

The government is continuing to stand by its position that Mr Yanner and Mr Foster were told the $1775 air tickets would be reimbursed.

The premier has resisted calls from the opposition and the police union to sack Ms Clark.

Speaking to the Nine network, Mr Beattie said the matter was “a storm in a tea cup.”

“The facts of life are that I made it clear when I found out they were going to Palm Island that taxpayers wouldn’t be footing the bill,” Mr Beattie said.

“She’s (Ms Clark) going to pay the airfares herself if they won’t,” the Premier added.

Mr Beattie said he had initially looked into the planning of the trip to Palm Island because he did not agree with Ms Clark’s decision to take Mr Yanner.

“He made a lot of inflammatory remarks that set back black and white relations for a decade and I didn’t think they were very helpful,” Mr Beattie said.

His comment referring to statements made by Mr Yanner calling for physical attacks against police officers following the November 19 death in custody of an Aboriginal man.

The opposition says the scandal surrounding Ms Clark has a ‘compelling similarity’ to the so-called ‘Winegate affair’ of March this year, when a bottle of wine was taken on a government flight to the Lockhart River Aboriginal Community, which operates under an alcohol restriction plan.

“We are talking about the same minister, the same public servants and the same sort of cover-up, and there are enough accusations and enough concerns raised now to ensure the CMC must investigate.

The CMC is already conducting the high profile investigation looking into the circumstances surrounding the Aboriginal death in custody on Palm Island last month which sparked violent rioting targeting police and government buildings.

Mr Sharon, who has been bereft of a parliamentary majority for the last six months, was given a major boost this week when the central committee of his own Likud party finally approved his plans to bring the main opposition Labour faction into government.

After suffering the embarrassment of a defeat in a similar ballot in August, victory by a resounding vote of 1,410 to 857 was particularly sweet for Mr Sharon.

A source close to the Prime Minister said he had already phoned Labour leader Shimon Peres to start talks on joining the government.

The source added that Mr Sharon was also to invite the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism to join the government.

While Shas, opposed to the withdrawal from Gaza, is likely to stay outside the government, the five deputies of the UTJ are expected to come on board.

The 81-year-old Peres, keen to taste power for possibly one last time, reiterated that he would welcome the opportunity to enter a new coalition in order to ensure the implementation of the so-called disengagement plan.

“We support Ariel Sharon’s proposition to forge a new coalition”, he told public radio.

“We hope that this decision represents a step forward in the peace process and we will act to support the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank,” added the former premier and Nobel peace prize winner.

Mr Sharon had warned that he would have no option but to call new elections if he was not given room to bring about a new coalition.

After losing three coalition partners in little more than six months, he can now rely on the support of only 40 of the 120 members of the parliament.

The top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot daily said Mr Sharon’s threats to call new elections, rather than a genuine change of heart among Likud hardliners, was the main reason for his victory.

“The great majority of these (hardliners) still oppose the evacuation of settlements from Gaza and the unilateral disengagement plan,” it said.

Mr Sharon, who has traditionally been seen as the ultimate champion of the settlers, has vowed to see through the uprooting of the 8,000 Jewish residents of Gaza next year come what may.

By leaving Gaza and four small Jewish enclaves in the northern West Bank, he is hoping to alleviate pressure for a more comprehensive withdrawal from the West Bank, where the vast majority of the 245,000 settlers live.

The Palestinians are deeply suspicious of Sharon’s intentions, fearing he will use the Gaza pullout to block progress on the wider peace process.

Negotiations minister Saeb Erakat said the vote was an “internal matter” but expressed hope a new government would help revive the peace process.

“We hope the formation of a new Israeli government will lead to the reviving of a meaningful peace process,” Mr Erakat said.

Mr Sharon had initially said the pullout would be implemented on a unilateral basis.

However, with the emergence of a more moderate Palestinian leadership since Yasser Arafat’s death last month, Mr Sharon has indicated a willingness to coordinate the process.

Meanwhile, there was no end to the violence in the region.

A seven-year-old Palestinian girl was killed and three other Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis shortly after a Hamas mortar attack on a nearby Jewish settlement, Palestinian medical sources said.

The mortar attack wounded at least four Israelis, medical sources said. Two of them, one a young child, were said to be in critical condition.

An Israeli military source said soldiers had “returned fire towards the source of the mortar shell attack”, adding that reports of the girl’s death were being investigated.

In Brussels, the European Commission announced that it will deploy more than 260 observers to monitor next month’s Palestinian presidential poll to elect a successor to Arafat.

Bassam al-Salhi, a candidate in the January 9 vote, was arrested by Israeli authorities after allegedly assaulting a border policeman at a checkpoint near Jerusalem after being refused permission to enter the holy city.

However, Mr Allawi hasn’t said who will go on trial, nor confirm when Mr Hussein himself will appear in court.

Mr Hussein, who with 11 of his top Baathist-regime officials has been captured by coalition forces, is being held at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport. But the former leader’s defence team has immediately disputed the validity of the planned trials.

“The interrogation (of detainees) in the absence of their lawyers is invalid and the accusations made against them are also invalid according to legal rules,” says a spokesman for the defence lawyers.

The interim government originally said Mr Hussein, who could face the death penalty, would go on trial after the January 30 elections, but the ongoing insurgency has moved forward the date of his arraignment.

Even so, Mr Allawi today confirmed that violence was likely to increase even further after the promised January 30 elections.

“Terrorist strikes and attacks will not stop after the elections. On the contrary, they will increase because this is a fight between good and evil,” the interim PM told parliament.

Mr Allawi announced that the insurgency had been dealt a blow with the killing of an aide to Iraq’s most wanted man, Jordanian Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of several insurgent activities throughout Iraq.

In the latest violence, at least eight Iraqis have been killed in two suicide car bomb attacks in as many days near an entrance to the secure Green Zone, home of the interim government and foreign embassies.

Fighting again erupted in the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah over the weekend, forcing the military to call in air strikes on rebel positions.

And the bodies of 14 men killed with a single bullet to the head were found in a cemetery in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Mr Allawi also says that 500 corpses had been found in a mass grave near Suleimaniyah, north of Baghdad.

The bodies were believed to be those of hundreds of Kurds killed by the regime in the late 1980s.

Internationally, Iraq has urged world leaders to help it find more than one million people who have gone missing or disappeared since Mr Hussein’s regime was toppled.

Officials from donor governments, UN agencies and other advocacy groups are meeting to discuss Iraq’s human rights situation with Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin, and Justice Minister Malek Dohan Al-Hassan, in Geneva over the next couple of days.

Under the accord, the Labour party would have eight ministerial posts and Labour leader Shimon Peres would be deputy prime minister at the premier’s office.

Mr Sharon, bereft of a majority for more than six months, needed to bring Labour into government to ensure implementation of his controversial plan to pull Israeli soldiers and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians during an incursion into Khan Yunis refugee camp of southern Gaza, Palestinian medical sources and witnesses said.

The incursion followed a bomb attack by Palestinian militants last Sunday that left five Israeli soldiers dead near a border crossing into Egypt at Rafah, also in southern Gaza.

Among the Palestinians killed was Ezzedine Hamdan, 21, an activist of the Abu Al-Rish Brigades, close to the mainstream Fatah faction, who was killed by a rocket fired by an Israeli army drone, the sources said.

The other seven were killed by gunshot, with at least four militants among those who died.

Tanks supported by helicopter gunships rolled into Khan Yunis shortly before midnight Thursday in a raid aimed at clamping down on attacks by Palestinian militants on nearby Jewish settlements, the army said.

Ensuing clashes, which also left at least 15 Palestinians wounded, came only hours after Sharon had talked up peace prospects.

Sparking anger amongst the Palestinian leadership ahead of a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Israeli army said it was prepared to maintain forces in Khan Yunis for several days if necessary.

Palestinian witnesses said that at least four bulldozers razed houses and shelters in the camp, forcing several families to gather near the hospital.

But the Israeli army said it was knocking down largely uninhabited buildings used as cover by militants as it sought to reduce the number of mortar and rocket attacks fired on nearby Jewish settlements.

On Thursday evening, 11 Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded by mortar fire near Netzer Hazani settlement close to Khan Yunis claimed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Meanwhile, several Palestinians were feared dead Friday after a suspected weapons-smuggling tunnel collapsed on them near Rafah, military and medical sources said.

Palestinian sources said at least five people were buried in the tunnel, but could not confirm reports from the Israeli side that five dead bodies had been dug out.

Israel says militant groups have dug a warren of tunnels under the Israeli-controlled border to smuggle in weapons and goods. A tunnel was used in Sunday’s bomb attack under an army post.

On the political front, Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Mr Blair would hold talks Wednesday with PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas and Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Mr Sharon voiced hopes for a breakthrough with a new Palestinian leadership committed to negotiations and not to violence.

“In 2005 we have the opportunity for an historic breakthrough in relations between us and the Palestinians,” Sharon said. “We will act with all our might to ensure this year of opportunity will not become a year of missed opportunities.”

Mr Kufuor won 52.75 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s poll, ahead of his main opponent John Atta Mills, who gained 44.32 percent.

While results from five of the country’s 230 constituencies have not been finalised, electoral officials said they will not alter the overall result.

“I declare President Kufuor new president of the Ghana republic,” said commission chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.

The two minor candidates, Edward Mahama and George Aggudey, won 1.9 percent and one percent of the vote respectively, he said.

The turnout rate was a massive 83.2 percent, and observers have praised the poll for being well-run, calm and orderly.

While they reported several incidents of irregularities, they said these were isolated incidents.

President Kufuor’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) is set to hold on to its slender majority in parliament, newly grown by 30 seats to 230 members, which were also contested in the elections.

Mr Afari-Gyan called the elections a success and thanked the voters, the political parties, the security forces and the electoral officials for their involvement.

“The president is very happy at this re-election for the next four years… the general elections were conducted peacefully and orderly,” said Kufuor spokesman Kwabena Agyapong.

“It is obvious that majority of Ghanaians have been appreciative of the way President Kufuor and his government have worked over the last four years,” he told a press conference.

John Agyekum Kufuor, 66, is nicknamed the ‘gentle giant’ and was first appointed deputy minister of foreign affairs in 1969.

He has put in place favourable economic policies that have helped the country post five percent growth each year and cut inflation, currying favour with international lenders.

President Kufuor, an Oxford-educated lawyer, was first elected in 2000 after the charismatic and controversial John Rawlings had been in power for two decades.

Rawlings, 55, seized power in June 1979 only to hand the reins to an elected civilian government four months later.

A second coup on December 31, 1981 ushered the former flight lieutenant to the presidency he held with an iron fist until 2000, when he was constitutionally obliged to step down.

Both of his military regimes are accused of having tortured, tried and executed their opponents.

Scott Peterson, a 32-year-old fertiliser salesman, was unanimously sentenced to death by the jury that last month convicted him of killing his wife Laci and unborn son Connor, climaxing a two-year drama that has captured the attention of the media.

A crowd in front of the courthouse in Redwood City, northern California, cheered as the jury announced their decision.

Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder of his wife and second-degree murder of his son, despite no proof directly linking him to their deaths presented during the five-month trial.

The jury deliberated over their verdict for 12 hours over three days. They had two options in deciding his fate: life in prison without parole or death by injection. The judge will on February 25 decide whether to uphold the sentence or reduce it.

Peterson clenched his jaw when the verdict was read and leaned over to speak with his lawyer, but showed no other emotion.

Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old teacher, was eight months pregnant went missing on or around December 24, 2002, sparking a major search that was initially led by her husband.

Peterson claimed he had been out fishing when his wife disappeared, and a stranger abducted and killed her.

However he was soon suspected of involvement, and four months after her disappearance, Laci Peterson’s headless and limbless body washed up on a San Francisco beach.

“Scott Peterson was Laci’s husband, Connor’s daddy, the one person who should have protected them,” juror Richelle Nice told reporters, explaining the unanimous verdict of the jury.

Peterson’s celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos said the verdict would be appealed.

After leading the search for his missing wife, Peterson was arrested in April 2003 after dying his dark hair blond and driving hundreds of miles south toward Mexico, carrying $US15,000 cash.

Prosecutors alleged he killed Laci to escape the shackles of marriage and reclaim the life of a bachelor and to be with his mistress, masseuse Amber Frey.

Peterson did not testify at his own trial but his lawyers strongly denied he was responsible for the deaths.

Tapes of his amorous telephone conversations with his lover, even as search parties were hunting his wife, were played during the trial.

It is rare in California for a death sentence to be overturned, but also rare for them to be carried out, with only 10 executions held since capital punishment was brought back in 1978.

Hicks’ Adelaide-based lawyer, Stephen Kenny, has said the Australian government must investigate the mistreatment of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay because the US was not interested in doing so.

In the affidavit sealed in August and released by his lawyer this week, Hicks states prisoners have been beaten whilst blindfolded and handcuffed, terrorised by dogs, forced to take drugs and had food withheld by jailers.

“At one point, a group of detainees, including myself, were subjected to being randomly hit over an eight-hour session while handcuffed and blindfolded,” he said.

“I have been struck with hands, fists, and other objects, including rifle butts. I have also been kicked.”

He said he had been offered a prostitute if he would spy on other detainees.

The release of the affidavit comes the same week as the publication of several documents that show FBI agents sent to Guantanamo Bay warned the government of abuse and mistreatment as early as the start of the detention mission.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said this week the government has received assurances from the US that torture had not been used on Hicks and fellow Australian terror suspect Mamdouh Habib at Guantanamo Bay.

The US government maintains prisoners are treated according to the Geneva Convention.

US policy condemns and prohibits torture.

“When we have credible allegations of detainee abuse we take those very seriously and investigate them,” Pentagon spokesman Major Michael Shavers said.

But Mr Kenny today said assurances from the US are not enough in light of mounting evidence to the contrary.

“Given the extent of the detail and the consistency of the various reports of ill treatment at Guantanamo Bay, there can be no doubt that these allegations are true,” he said.

He urged the attorney-general to have his department investigate the matter.

“It appears to me the Americans have little interest in investigating these matters because they have been aware of them, and the allegations have been fully detailed to them, for at least six months in David’s case and longer in the case of others.”

Hicks’ Adelaide-based father, Terry, said the affidavit shows the lengths his son was prepared to go to prove his claims of abuse.

“David’s not a liar,” Mr Hicks said.

“It looks like poor old David’s got to go to the extremes now of trying to prove it (the abuse) instead of our government investigating it.”

Hicks, 29, from Adelaide, was one of the first prisoners to arrive at the camp in eastern Cuba in January 2002. He was later joined there by Mamdouh Habib.

He is one of only four terror suspects who have been formally charged among 550 detainees at Guantanamo accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or the al-Qaeda terror network.

He is scheduled to be tried in a military commission in March.