- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation New Caledonia 6.9 ; Vanuata 6.9 ; Chili 5.5 !More info here.
- If You Disagree With Obama, He Wants to Know Where You Get Your Money.(NR)By Jim Geraghty.The Thursday Morning Jolt: almost too much to handle. It features the discussion of whether Michigan should be considered a Romney-Santorum tie, what to make of the brokered-convention, unknown-figure-rides-in-to-save-the-GOP theories, and then this outrage that broke last night: Barack Obama: Join My Fight to Demand the Koch Brothers Tell Us Stuff!At 9:13 Eastern, Barack Obama – presumably, one of his staffers – tweeted, “Add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public.”The Obama campaign message is: “Americans for Prosperity, the special-interest front group run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers, is claiming that its donors are “tens of thousands” of folks “from all walks of life.” We’re asking them to prove it by disclosing their donors to the public. Demand the truth by adding your name.”Mister President, with all due respect, who the heck (not my first choice of words) are you to demand private citizens engaged in free speech disclose their donors when they are not required to by law? Who made you king?Oh, and the Koch brothers are “oil billionaires” the way you’re a multimillionaire recording artist. Here’s the summary from Forbes: “Koch Industries owns a diverse group of companies involved in refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals and fertilizer; fibers and polymers; commodity and financial trading and services; and forest and consumer products.”To summarize, President “I’ll Use SuperPACs After All” is demanding Americans for Prosperity turn over a list of donors that no law requires.As Obama said to a House Democrat who didn’t vote the way he wanted, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”Hmmmm........"You're eighter with me or against me"?Read the full story here.
- Next Leg Of The Ponzi Revealed - Foreign Central Banks To Begin Buying US Stocks Outright Starting Today.(ZH).We were speechless when we read this from Bloomberg.The Bank of Israel will begin today a pilot program to invest a portion of its foreign currency reserves in U.S. equities.The investment, which in the initial phase will amount to 2 percent of the $77 billion reserves, or about $1.5 billion, will be made through UBS AG and BlackRock Inc. (BLK), Bank of Israel spokesman Yossi Saadon said in a telephone interview today. At a later stage, the investment is expected to increase to 10 percent of the reserves.A small number of central banks have started investing part of their reserves in equities. About 9 percent of the foreign- exchange reserves of Switzerland’s central bank were invested in shares at the end of the third quarter, the Swiss bank said on its website.The investment will be made in equity index trackers and will include between 1,500 to 2,000 shares, among them stocks like Apple Inc. (AAPL), Saadon said.In other words, while the Fed's charter forbids it from buying US equities outright, it certainly can promise that it will bail out such bosom friends as the Bank of Israel, the Swiss National Bank, and soon everyone else, if and when their investment in Apple should sour. Luckily, this means that the exponential phase in risk is approaching as everyone will now scramble to frontrun central bank purchases no longer in bonds, but in stocks outright, leading to epic surges in everything risk related, then collapse and force the Fed to print tens of trillions to bail everyone out all over again, rinse repeat, until this chart becomes asymptotic. We say luckily, because it means that the long overdue systemic reset is finally approaching.Read and see the full story here.
- The TSA Is Coming To A Highway Near You.(Forbes).By Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).One of the great honors of my service to Tennessee is having the opportunity to represent Ft. Campbell which is home to the storied 101st Airborne, the 5th Special Forces Group and the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment which piloted Navy SEAL Team Six during the raid on Osama Bin Laden.Each soldier who calls Ft. Campbell home has gone through some of the most intensive training on the planet which pushed their minds and bodies to their physical limits. In the end, those who make the cut have earned the right to be part of our United States military, are honored to wear its uniform, and are serving on the frontlines in the fight against global terrorism.Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our nation’s Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) who Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano contends are our nation’s last line of defense in fighting domestic terrorism. Unlike “hell week” which faces potential Navy SEALs, becoming a TSO requires a basic level of classroom and on the job training. In many cases this rigorous training is less severe than the requirements of becoming a security guard in most states.Believe it or not, only 7 years ago, TSOs went by a more deserving title, “airport security screeners.” At the time, their title and on the job appearance consisted of a white shirt and black pants. This was fitting because airport security screening is exactly what’s required of the position. However, this is no longer the case.In the dead of night, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administratively reclassified airport security screeners as Transportation Security Officers. The TSA then moved to administratively upgrade TSOs uniforms to resemble those of a federal law enforcement officer. They further completed the makeover with metal law enforcement badges. Not surprisingly, government bureaucrats at the TSA left out one crucial component during the artificial makeover – actual federal law enforcement training as is required of Federal Air Marshalls.While TSOs may have the appearance of a federal law enforcement officer they have neither the authority nor the power. If a passenger brings a loaded gun or an explosive device into an airport screening area there is nothing a TSO can do until the local police step in to save the day.In order to help rein in the TSA I introduced H.R. 3608, the Stop TSA’s Reach in Policy Act aka the STRIP Act. This bill will simply overturn the TSA’s administrative decision by prohibiting any TSA employee who has not received federal law enforcement training from using the title “officer,” wearing a police like uniform or a metal police badge. At its most basic level the STRIP Act is about truth in advertising.As TSOs continue to expand their presence beyond our nation’s airports and onto our highways, every American citizen has the right to know that they are not dealing with actual federal law enforcement officers. Had one Virginia woman known this days before Thanksgiving she may have been able to escape being forcibly raped by a TSO who approached her in a parking lot in full uniform while flashing his badge.Will the STRIP Act solve every problem facing the TSA? Absolutely not. The STRIP Act seeks to expand upon the work of my colleagues by chipping away at an unnoticed yet powerful overreach of our federal government. If Congress cannot swiftly overturn something as simple as this administrative decision there will be little hope that we can take steps to truly rein in the TSA on larger issues of concern.Furthermore, if Congress fails to act do not be surprised if the TSA gives TSOs another administrative makeover in the future. Only this time it won’t be a new uniform. It will be the power to make arrests as some TSOs are already publicly calling for.Hmmmm.......Obama:"We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, and just as well-funded."Read the full story here.
- U.S. probe of Koran burning finds 5 troops responsible, officials say; Afghans demand trial.(WP).By Kevin Sieff.PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan — Military investigators have concluded that five U.S. service members were involved in the incineration of a pile of Korans in Afghanistan last week, according to U.S. military officials who have been briefed on the inquiry.The burning of the Muslim holy books — which U.S. officials say was accidental — incited a week of protests that left 30 Afghans dead. The burnings also were cited as motivation for at least some of the six fatal attacks on U.S. military personnel that have occurred in Afghanistan in the past eight days.Investigators appointed by Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, found that the service members removed the Korans from a prison at Bagram air base after they were discovered to contain extremist messages.The books were then placed in an office for safekeeping, according to the inquiry. But they were mistaken for garbage and taken to a landfill on the base.Afghan employees identified the books as Korans just as the pages caught fire, a major desecration according to Muslim teachings. The discovery led to a week of unprecedented tension between U.S. and Afghan military officials.U.S. military officials said that although the five service members will be reprimanded, it is unlikely that their names will be released or that their punishment will approach the severity of what some Afghans are demanding, including trial in an Islamic court.“For the soldiers, it will be serious — they could lose rank. But you’re not going to see the kind of public trial that some here seem to want,” said one U.S. military official.Another military official said: “What they did was careless, but there was no ill will.”The much-discussed investigation was intended to quell unrest and prove to the Afghan public that U.S. officials were apologetic and willing to make amends for wrongdoing.But U.S. military officials expressed concern that the investigation’s finding — which stops short of pinning blame on malevolent service members — might not satisfy Afghan leaders.Senior Afghan clerics, in a statement issued after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, said: “This evil action cannot be forgiven by apologizing. The perpetrators of the mentioned crime should be put on a public trial as soon as possible.”The clerics reiterated calls for the U.S.-led NATO coalition to relinquish control of military prisons to the Afghan government. “This incident was caused due to the illegal management of the prison,” the clerics said, according to a translation of their statement provided by the U.S. military.A NATO spokesman, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, declined to comment on the findings of the military inquiry, saying it was “still going through the legal process.” A separate Afghan investigation, which is being conducted by lawmakers and religious officials, is expected to conclude in several days. U.S. military officials worry that if the Afghan investigation clashes with their findings, it could reinvigorate protesters.“There’s a real concern there. We don’t know what the investigation will say or how the public will react,” one official said. “But we know that there’s a real interest in trying guilty parties in an Afghan court, and that’s not something we’re prepared to do.”Hmmm.........The Islamic scholar Imam al-Haskaf specifies burning as an appropriate means of disposal for Qurans that have been defaced or rendered unusable, writing "Books that are no longer benefited from, one should wipe away the names of Allah, His Angels, and His Messengers, and burn the rest.Read the full story here.
- Wounded French journalists arrive in Paris; Obama says Assad’s ‘days are numbered’.(AA).Two French journalists evacuated from Syria’s battered city Homs arrived Friday at a military airport near Paris after escaping the besieged protest hub where two of their colleagues were killed.A plane transporting wounded reporter Edith Bouvier, 31, and photographer William Daniels, 34, arrived at Villacoublay airport from Beirut where they were met by relatives and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, who announced Friday that Paris would close its embassy in Syria to denounce President Bashar al-Assad's “scandalous” repression, paid homage to the journalists on their arrival.He said that Syrian authorities will “be called to account for their crimes before international criminal jurisdictions.”“The crime that they committed, the crimes that they have committed, will not go unpunished,” Sarkozy said, also praising a “chivalrous” Daniels for staying with Bouvier in Homs during days of heavy regime bombardment.
An ambulance was parked on the tarmac to take Bouvier to a military hospital for treatment for a broken leg suffered during the deadly bombardment of an improvised media center in Homs on Feb. 22.France announced it was ready to step up support of the rebels if the U.N. Security Council cleared the way for such a move. “Dictators will all, one day, have to pay for their actions,” Sarkozy said.
Bouvier, whose femur was shattered during heavy shelling of Homs’ Baba Amro district, and Daniels were brought across the border into Lebanon by Syrian rebels on Thursday, ending several days of uncertainty over their fate.Their plight had mesmerized France following the death of a French photographer Remi Ochlik last week during the bombardment of Homs, alongside American journalist Marie Colvin.Paris prosecutors on Friday opened a preliminary murder probe into the attack on the media center in Homs.A judicial source said that one of the inquiry’s first objectives would be to gather data that would allow the formal identification of Ochlik’s body so that it could be returned to France.
Meanwhile, Obama said in an interview published Friday that President Assad’s “days are numbered,” adding Washington was working to accelerate the transition to democracy there.
In the interview with the Atlantic Monthly, Obama said “it is our estimation that (Assad’s) days are numbered. It’s a matter not of if but when.”“Now, can we accelerate that? We’re working with the world community to try to do that,” he said.
Obama acknowledged that Syria is bigger, more sophisticated and more complicated than Libya, and that countries like Russia are blocking U.N. action, according to AFP.Read the full story here.