29 augusti 2011

Lockerbiemannen i koma

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is comatose, near death and likely to take secrets of the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 to his grave.

CNN found al-Megrahi under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa Sunday, surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip. The cancer-stricken former Libyan intelligence officer may be the last man alive who knows precisely who in the Libya government authorized the bombing, which killed 270 people.

"We just give him oxygen. Nobody gives us any advice," his son, Khaled al-Megrahi, told CNN.

CNN's Nic Robertson: 'Not what I was prepared for'

Al-Megrahi was freed from a prison in Scotland in 2009 after serving eight years of a life sentence for blowing up the Pan Am jet, killing all 259 on board and 11 in the town of Lockerbie below. Doctors who had been treating him for prostate cancer gave him just three months to live, and he was released on compassionate grounds.

He received a hero's welcome in Tripoli, enraging many in the United States and Britain. And with the recent overthrow of longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have called for al-Megrahi to be sent back to prison.

Al-Megrahi has been subject of bitter dispute

But the National Transitional Council, the rebel movement that toppled Gadhafi, announced Sunday that it won't allow the dying al-Megrahi to be extradited.

"We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West," NTC Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi said.

Al-Megrahi lived far longer than expected. He made a public appearance with now-fugitive Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi in July, confined to a wheelchair. He always maintained his innocence.

With the fall of Tripoli to the rebels, his care has been left up to his son and his mother.

December 21, 1988: On the scene in LockerbieVideo

"There is no doctor. There is nobody to ask. We don't have any phone line to call anybody," Khaled al-Megrahi said.

26 augusti 2011

Familjen Khadaffis lyxliv på insidan

Världens medier översvämmas nu av bilder av Khadaffis bunkersystem. Det kanske allra mest iögonfallande och stötande är bilderna från vad som nu kallas för diktatorns lyxliv. Liknande bilder kom när Saddam Hussein hade störtats, men det här är ändå annorlunda och står i bjärt kontrast mot Khadaffis strävan efter att visa upp sig som beduinen i sitt tält, där han brukade ta emot utländska dignitärer. Den här artikeln kommer från Newsweek och Daily Beast’s utsände.

Babak Dehghanpisheh visited a Gaddafi family home this morning and discovered a secret palace hidden behind an ordinary façade. Read about the garden labyrinth, 40-foot deep bunker, hot tub, waterfall, Playboy magazine collection, yachting brochures and an empty box of Coronas.

The neighbors always knew they would be surprised by what’s inside the house on Dhel, or shadow, street. But when they got the first glimpse of Muammar Gaddafi’s house in southeast  Tripoli last Sunday, they were in complete shock. “It’s amazing. We didn’t believe [it],” says Hassan Salem, a 46-year-old engineer who lives in the neighborhood. “We thought we are in a dream.”

There have been many rumors about the Saharan madman’s palaces and underground bunkers over the years, testaments to a dictator’s ego and paranoia that in some cases seemed to outdo his peers, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Well, as it turns, the rumors are true. “There are a lot of hidden things inside,” says Bahauldin Babai, 28, a doctor who also lives in the neighborhood and now helps guard the house from looters. In order to prevent further damage and looting to the compound, rebel military leaders have sealed the doors. The only way in or out is with a ladder, which some neighbors are happy to supply.

The house was built by Gaddafi in the 80s and later given to his son Mutassim. It looks inconspicuous enough on the outside with an ordinary gate and dun-colored walls, which blend with the surrounding houses. On the other side of the gate, it’s a step through the looking glass: an inner ring of 30-foot high walls surround a huge, beautifully manicured garden with trimmed hedges, small ponds, and pink bougainvilleas. The earthy smell of fresh grass fills the air in late afternoon.

But the garden isn’t there only for aesthetic purposes. It’s also a labyrinth that hides and separates the various parts of the sprawling compound, including an elaborate 40-foot deep bunker. The main house is a 70’s-style one-story structure, built in an L-shape around a large pool with a hot tub. The pool is now half-filled with green water but the grey and black marble top bar beside the pool hints at the swinging parties that must have taken place there. Just beside the pool is a cocktail lounge with another bar and a five-foot bust of what appears to be a Greek goddess, perhaps Aphrodite, broken in half in one corner. A large pond, complete with a waterfall and small black fish, has been built a short distance away. The Gaddafi clan clearly liked to enjoy themselves. In a nearby annex, there is a color booklet for a 280-foot yacht called the Annaliesse. The flashy gym inside the house, decked out with the latest weight machines, looks unused.

Gaddafi's Compound: Swimming Pool, Mermaid Couch, Hidden Tunnel, More (Photos)

Gaddafi's Compound

Libyan rebels take souvenir pictures on August 24, 2011 under the tent where Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi used to receive foreign dignitaries and officials at his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli which was overrun by the opposition forces the previous day. , PATRICK BAZ Patrick Baz / AFP / Getty Images

About 40 yards away from the house, in the middle of a large grass lawn, is an ordinary looking rectangular hedge. What’s inside is far from ordinary. A set of stairs go down and down, about 40 feet altogether, into a heavily reinforced bunker with neon lights, a fire alarm system and wall-mounted telephones. Light green steel doors about a foot thick separate a complex series of tunnels and rooms, which seem to have been built as a last-ditch hideout. Neighborhood residents say they found a fully equipped operating room in the bunker which included an X-ray machine. Surgical masks are strewn around various rooms in the bunker, too. The usable medical equipment was taken out and donated to local hospitals. A couple of the rooms are decked out with bunk beds, perhaps for a security detail or other family members. Gaddafi, or his son Mutassim, did like to muse about self-defense in their underground lair. In one room, there is a 404-page book by Jane’s Consultancy called Protection of Libyan Military Assets.

Gallery: Dictator Porn

Muammar Gaddafi

Enric Marti / AP Photo

But it’s not all business down in the bunker: there were a number of magazines in English, including Playboy, Vogue, and National Geographic, scattered around various rooms, along with an empty box of Corona beer. “He’s one freak,” says Ashraf al Khadiri, a 30-year-old doctor who also lives in the neighborhood. “He’s been preparing for this moment for a long time.” Neighborhood residents had long suspected there was an underground facility on the property because of the large amount of dirt that was trucked out during construction. “We always thought he could be walking under our houses,” says Khadiri with a smirk and a shrug. “We didn’t know.”

The first group of ordinary Libyans who came to see the Gaddafi compound had a natural reaction: they went on a rampage and trashed the place.

Moammar Gadhafi compound

A rebel fighter enters a bunker of the main Muammar Gaddafi compound (not house reported in story) in Bab Al-Aziziya in Tripoli, Libya, Aug. 25, 2011. , Sergey Ponomarev / AP Photo

When the regime teetered earlier this week, the house was still watched over by eight guards who had no news of the dramatic events outside. Neighborhood residents were able to contact them by phone and convince them to turn over their weapons peacefully. The first group of ordinary Libyans who came to see the compound had a natural reaction: they went on a rampage and trashed the place. They smashed every window in the gym and kicked in doors. Down cushions in the living room were ripped open and the white feathers now roll across broken glass in front of the house at the slightest breeze. “This is the dictator that we have been living with for more than 40 years,” says Salem, the engineer, shaking his head. “This is what we want the world to know.”

Fotnot: Artikelförfattaren är sedan tio år tillbaka tidskriften Newsweeks byråchef i Beirut.

20 augusti 2011

Lockerbiemannen hotas av utlämning till USA

BBC skriver idag att den så kallade Lockerbiemannen, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, hotas av utlämning från Libyen till USA den dag rebellerna har störtat Khaddafi-regimen. Och från USA rapporteras att man i så fall kommer att ställa honom inför amerikansk domstol. Om detta skulle bli verklighet är det ingenting annat än ett teaterstycke, därför att alla som i grunden satt sig in i fallet är helt övertygade om att Megrahi är oskyldig till bomben ombord på Pan Ams jumbojet i december 1988. Bomben exploderade på 10 000 meters höjd över skotska Lockerbie och dödade 270 människor.

För min egen del är jag helt övertygad om att det var palestinska PFLP-GC som agerade som ombud för Iran. Det spåret har aldrig utretts ordentligt och i grunden. Istället blev Megrahi Libyens bondeoffer för att slippa undan FNs ytterst omfattande sanktioner mot Libyen.

The Scottish Government says the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has been "vindicated" following two years of scrutiny.

The decision was made on compassionate grounds, and not on economic, political or diplomatic factors, it said.

Megrahi, diagnosed with prostate cancer, was freed from Greenock prison after being given three months to live.

A spokesman said senior figures in the US, British and Scottish jurisdictions have agreed it was taken in good faith.

Families of the 270 people killed in the bombing have criticised the move.

Megrahi was jailed in 2001 for the bombing of a plane over Lockerbie in 1988.

The decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to release him on 20 August 2009 sparked international condemnation from some relatives of victims and politicians, including US President Barack Obama - but also attracted high-profile support from figures such as Nelson Mandela.

A spokesman for the First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Two years of extensive scrutiny, under three jurisdictions, vindicates the position that the justice secretary released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone.

"Regardless of people's views, they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of Scots law, and without any consideration of the economic, political and diplomatic factors that the then UK government based its position on.

"Whether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and al-Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer."

A leading cancer specialist had said that it was likely the convicted bomber was being kept alive by pills not available in the UK.

“He is under threat because the rebels have promised to hand him over to the Americans apparently ” Prof Kirby, of The Prostate Centre in London, said he believed Megrahi was "almost certainly" being kept alive by a hormone-based therapy called abiraterone.

Meanwhile, the author helping Megrahi write his memoirs has told BBC Scotland that the convicted bomber wants the public to "know the truth" about the case.

Speaking ahead of the second anniversary of his release, British journalist John Ashton, who worked as a researcher alongside Megrahi's legal team, said the Libyan wanted evidence which would have been heard during his appeal to finally be made public.

Mr Ashton said: "His dream was always to overturn his conviction and to achieve freedom through that.

"When he made the decision to go home and abandon his appeal he called me in and said that he wanted me to write a book because he wanted the public to the know the truth.

"He wanted them to know the evidence that would have been heard during the appeal."

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi Megrahi was recently seen on Libyan television attending a gathering in Tripoli

The author also echoed concerns raised by others that Megrahi may be attacked by or handed over to US forces in Libya.

He added: "If we are to believe what we read then yes he is under threat because the rebels have promised to hand him over to the Americans, apparently, and the Americans have said they are going to take him back to America and try him there, which is ridiculous and illegal."

Relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing are still looking for clarity and answers.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the bombing, said: "It's extremely frustrating that we're here, still talking about this.

"The fact that it's now years later means that the decision was probably made on a spurious basis.

"I'm sure Kenny MacAskill made it in good faith, but why are we having this discussion now? It's just another thing that remains unsolved."

14 augusti 2011

Power to the Corporation!

Min favoritkolumnist i New York Times, Maureen Dowd, skriver idag elakt roligt om republikanernas presidentkandidat Mitt Romney. Kongresskvinnan Michele Bachman vann 4 800 av de 17 000 rösterna i lördagens “straw poll” i Iowa, tätt följd av Ron Paul. Mitt Romney kom först på sjunde plats. Samtidigt deklarerade Texas guvernör Rick Perry att han kandiderar. Valet i Iowa kan man kalla för en sorts undersökning av popularitet och hur stark organisation kandidaterna har. I slutänden är jag ganska övertygad om att valet av republikansk kandidat kommer att stå mellan Romney och Rick Perry. Och jag vågar redan nu satsa en slant på Perry.



I saw Mitt Romney’s hair move.

No really, I did. We were standing amid the soybean and corn fields in rural Iowa and a breeze lifted some of his salt-and-pepper mane out of its Brylcreem perfection.

The tenuous and scarce Republican front-runner, who hopes to do “darn well” in Iowa, was poking at President Obama. “I sure as heck wouldn’t be on a bus tour if I were president of the United States,” he said.

I tried to focus on his patter-on-a-stick in this rare encounter with the press, but I kept thinking about another tall, dark and handsome avatar of perfection known for holding back: Cary Grant. Like Grant, Romney is a fastidious dresser with an athletic build. But the 64-year-old former governor of Massachusetts doesn’t make you swoon, maybe because he looks like a statue of himself.

Grant came to mind because the setting for Romney’s press conference, outside the Vermeer agricultural manufacturing plant in Pella, recalled the famous scene in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”: Mad Man Roger O. Thornhill has to run for his life through Midwest cornfields when the bad guys chase him in a crop-duster. It’s an apt image for the riven Republican Party: Some maniacal Tea Party meanies fly in out of nowhere to spew poison, chasing the establishment guys out of their more refined natural habitats.

One pollster here wryly noted that the Republican presidential prospects divide into “the sane and the insane.”

Since the sane ones are boring as spackle and the insane ones have crackle, Republicans must hope that the mildly insane premise in Dr. Nassir Ghaemi’s new book about leadership and mental illness is correct.

In “A First-Rate Madness,” Dr. Ghaemi, the director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, asserts, “In the storm of crisis, complete sanity can steer us astray, while some insanity brings us to port.” I hope that means harbor instead of alcohol, since two Mormons are running.

Not only did I see Romney’s hair move, I saw him sweat. This must have come as a great relief to his handlers; when he was campaigning in 2007, some advisers worried that he looked too perfect in an ad showing him jogging through the woods.

Knowing that perfect can read as false, his ad team would try to shoot him with a hand-held camera using videotape, as opposed to film, which can create prettier, slicker images.

On the state fair soapbox, Romney put a loafer up on a bale of hay and perspired from the heat as some in the audience chatted about how his first name is Willard. While Democrats are amused that Romney shares a name with a famous movie rat, it is also disturbing that Mitt and Willard morph into Millard, the name of one of America’s most mediocre presidents.

In the debate in Ames on Thursday, Romney replied to a question from Fox’s Bret Baier about the debt deal by saying, “Look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food, all right?”

He was trying to be tough, but unfortunately may have reminded people of the infamous time he put Seamus, his Irish setter, in a dog carrier strapped to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive from Boston to Ontario.

At the fair, Romney — whose net worth is between $190 million and $250 million — once again went manly by flipping a pork chop on a grill and facing down hecklers worried about cuts in Social Security. When a man in the audience yelled that corporations should be taxed more, Romney replied, “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Give “The Stormin’ Mormon,” as Neil Cavuto approvingly called him on Fox News, credit: never has the traditional Republican doctrine been so succinctly explained.

Of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation. We the corporation. Corporations who need corporations are the luckiest corporations in the world. Power to the corporation!

Romney may not have realized that he was articulating the same fundamental concept of the American right that Justice Antonin Scalia propounded in the Citizens United case, when the Supreme Court opened the way to Super PACs and a flood of surreptitious new donations in politics. (A former official at Bain Capital, Romney’s old private equity firm, admitted recently that he was the one who anonymously gave $1 million to a pro-Mitt Super PAC.)

The association of individuals in a business corporation, Scalia wrote in his concurring opinion, “cannot be denied the right to speak on the simplistic ground that it is not ‘an individual American.’ ”

The back-door money infused by Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers and others elected a slew of radical Republicans. Thanks to that Congressional wrecking crew, America’s credit rating has been downgraded and its economy has been hurt.

At least Republicans are getting most of the blame for that, my friend.