Tuesday, January 3, 2012
HT: Brass Check TV
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Russia 4.9!More info here.
- Iran: Foreign Warships Will Need Iranian Permission to Pass through Strait of Hormoz.(IMRA).TEHRAN - All foreign warships will soon be unable to pass through the Strait of Hormoz unless they first receive a permission from the Iranian Navy ships deployed in the region, an Iranian parliamentarian said, adding that the country's lawmakers are now working on a relevant plan as the strategic waterway is part of the Iranian territories."If the military vessels and warships of any country want to pass via the Strait of Hormoz without coordination and permission of Iran's Navy forces, they should be stopped by the Iranian Armed Forces," Nader Qazipour told FNA, explaining about the contents of the plan.He underlined that the plan will be presented to the parliament's presiding board next week.In relevant remarks on Monday, another Iranian legislator stressed that Iran will use all its capabilities and possibilities to defend the country against foreign threats and the country will use the Strait of Hormoz as a defensive tool and will close the waterway if it comes under threat."Iran will definitely use the defensive potential of the Strait of Hormoz if it is faced with threats," Rapporteur of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazzem Jalali told FNA.Iranian lawmakers and officials have recently warned enemies that Iran is entitled to the right to close the strategic oil lifeline as a defensive option against foreign invasion."The closure of the Strait of Hormuz is not on the Islamic Republic of Iran's agenda (at present), but if threats against Iran come to trample upon the rights of our nation while others use the strait for exporting their oil, then Iran will be entitled to the right to close the Strait of Hormuz," member of the Iranian Parliament Mohammad Taqi Rahbar told FNA late December."The international conventions reserve such rights for the Islamic Republic of Iran as well," Rahbar underscored.The lawmaker, however, said, "For the time being, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not decided to close the strait, but this (closing the strait) depends on the conditions of the region."Read the full story here.
- "Sanctions that bite"? - Turkey's FM to visit Iran for talks on nuke, Oil and Syria.(JPost).ISTANBUL - Turkey's foreign minister will visit Tehran on Wednesday for talks with his Iranian counterpart on Iran's nuclear program and developments in neighboring Iraq and Syria, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said late on Tuesday.Ahmet Davutoglu's visit was described as being in the framework of regular talks between the two ministers, but it comes at a key time for the region and relations between the two regional powers."It is intended that they will exchange views on topical subjects such as Iran's nuclear program and developments in Syria and Iraq," the Turkish foreign ministry said.Davutoglu's visit was set to finish on Thursday.Turkey is evaluating whether to seek a waiver from the United States to exempt Turkish oil importer Tupras from new US sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, a Turkish official said on Tuesday.US ally Turkey is among the biggest buyers of Iranian oil and gas. It gets about 30 percent of its oil from neighbor Iran, and Tupras, Turkey's biggest crude oil importer is a big buyer of Iranian crude.The United States has armed itself with tough measures targeting financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, the main clearinghouse through which OPEC's No. 2 oil exporter deals with clients around the world.The law, signed by President Barack Obama on Saturday, allows the US to exempt institutions in a country that has significantly reduced its dealings with Iran. Obama may also grant waivers deemed to be in the US national interest or otherwise necessary for energy market stability.Turkey is bound by UN sanctions against Iran, though it opposed the last round of measures in 2010, and it insists it is not obliged to follow non-UN sanctions.Iran threatened on Tuesday to take action if the US Navy moves an aircraft carrier into the Gulf, Tehran's most aggressive statement yet after weeks of sabre-rattling as new US and EU financial sanctions take a toll on its economy. Obama said several provisions including the sanctions that target Iran's central bank "would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations."The president, said in his statement that if any application of these provisions conflicted with his constitutional authorities, "I will treat the provisions as non-binding.Hmmmm.....Turkey got a 'waiver' from buddy Obama to conduct business as usual?Read the full story here.
- Pentagon: US Navy will remain in Gulf.(Ynet).The Pentagon on Tuesday answered an Iranian warning to keep US aircraft carriers out of the Persian Gulf by declaring that American warships will continue regularly scheduled deployments to the strategic waterway. George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Navy operates in the Gulf in accordance with international law and to maintain "a constant state of high vigilance" to ensure the flow of sea commerce.Meanwhile, the White House said Iran's threat to take action if a US aircraft carrier moves into the Gulf showed Tehran was increasingly isolated internationally, faced economic problems from to sanctions and wants to divert attention from its deepening problems."It reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.Earlier Tuesday, Iran's army chief warned an American aircraft carrier not to return to the Gulf.The US Navy has said the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel left the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz a week ago. Iran has been holding naval exercises near the Strait at the mouth of the Gulf, which is a critically important passage for international oil supplies."The deployment of US military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades," Little said in a written statement. "These are regularly scheduled movements in accordance with our longstanding commitments to the security and stability of the region and in support of ongoing operations."The US Navy 5th Fleet has long been headquartered in the Gulf state of Bahrain.Asked whether the US intends to send naval reinforcements to the Gulf in response to Iranian talk of closing the Strait of Hormuz, Little did not answer directly but said, "No one in this government seeks confrontation over the Strait of Hormuz. It's important to lower the temperature."Little reiterated that any closure of the strait would not be tolerated, but he declined to elaborate.On Monday Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile as part of its naval maneuvers in the Gulf, prompting Iran's navy chief to boast that the strait is "completely under our control."Asked about the significance of the missile test, Little said, "We are aware of reports of missile tests that are apparently tied to Iranian naval exercises that began in late December. They have the right to conduct exercises. The United States believes that the Iranian regime should devote its energy and resources to establishing friendly relations with countries in the Gulf region."Read the full story here.
- Red Alert: New Unconstitutional Presidential Power Grab May Be Imminent.(BigGovernment).Senate Republicans have been holding up the confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until changes to the agency’s structure are made to provide oversight and accountability at the agency. But sources from inside the Capitol tell Capitol Confidential that a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the unconstitutional CFPB could come as early as tomorrow.“We have been hearing consistently from the Senate offices that the President is considering a recess appointment of Richard Cordray along with a slew of other controversial nominees in the brief period between the two sessions of Congress,” a key Senate source said. “Now we are hearing from Senior Democrat staffers that something big is coming tomorrow [Jan 4].”Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides the president with the power to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.” The problem for the president and his liberal allies is that the Senate has not recessed and technically remains in session. However, liberal groups are pressing the White House to invoke the “Roosevelt Option” to stack key government positions with radicals ready to carry out an anti-business, pro-big labor regulatory agenda. The Roosevelt Option is coined from the actions of Teddy Roosevelt who in 1903, in a split-second between two congressional sessions of Congress, made more than 100 recess appointments. In 2012, Congress will need to move from the First Session of this current Congress to the Second Session. Liberals claim the fraction of a second between the sessions is enough to trigger presidential power.Others are more brazenly calling for the president to invoke presidential powers never before contemplated. Some have even suggested the president declare the Congress in recess, like a tinhorn dictator from a Third World country.But none of the legal or constitutional arguments may matter much. Liberals and the Obama administration appear poised to forge ahead with an outrageous and unconstitutional power grab. And by the time the courts work it out, so much damage will already be done.So, let’s be clear about what is happening here: The President of the United States is planning to use an obscure precedent to claim that a split second in time empowers him to go around Congress to appoint a director to an agency that has broad unchecked, almost dictatorial powers to regulate business in America with little or no oversight from the peoples’ representatives in Congress.Such actions by the president would be an open declaration of war on constitutional principles and completely undermine our system of checks and balances. These kinds of power grabs are exactly how Banana Republics are born.Hmmmm......I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes. ~ Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.Read the full story here.
- Odd Coincidence: Soros-Affiliated Brazilian Company Looks to Win Major DOD Contract Over U.S. Competition.(DR).For some reason unbeknownst to me, legacy media has chosen not to report this particular story. Go figure.It seems after investing around $100 million in this project, Hawker-Beechcraft has been excluded from a contract, worth almost $1 billion, to build a new light air support plane.What intrigues me is the Brazilian company Embraer, the likely contract winner, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Justice Department, for possible violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act...Well, amigo, that certainly seems curious. I wonder how that might have happened?...it seems George Soros has a connection to Embraer through Harbin-Embraer Aircraft a Chinese-Brazilian joint venture, and Hainan Airlines, which Soros owns a significant stake in.Surely that must be a coincidence....[There may be] nothing sinister going on behind the scenes.It’s troubling, however, that Hawker-Beechcraft was given no real explanation for this decision. It’s also troubling we’d buy a military aircraft from a foreign manufacturer, under any circumstances. As bad as Americans need jobs, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Never mind the national security factor.Hawker-Beechcraft isn't giving up. It's still a mystery... but it's one that Hawker Beech intends to get to the bottom of... Hawker Beechcraft has confirmed that they will file a suit with the Court of Federal Claims following notification late last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has declined to review its protest of the decision by the U.S. Air Force to exclude the company's Beechcraft AT-6 from the Light Air Support (LAS) competition.The company still has no concrete reasons for the AT-6's exclusion, having been denied explanation by the US Air Force on two occasions. The LAS contract is valued at nearly $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer money and exclusion of the AT-6 could result in a de facto award to a non-U.S. company.Hawker says that keeping the contract in the U.S. would preserve 1,400 jobs at 181 companies around the U.S. But leave it to President Obama -- who "will not rest" until every American has a good job -- to outsource the construction of military aircraft.Hmmmm.....Remember the story here on MFS a few days ago"Washington to sell F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, deal to boost U.S. economy.Meanwhile Pres kills of Hawker Beechcraft".Read the full story here.
- Iran warning to US aircraft carriers sends tensions soaring.(HurriyetDaily).Iran's military on Tuesday warned one of the US navy's biggest aircraft carriers to keep away from the Gulf, in an escalating showdown over Tehran's nuclear drive that could pitch into armed confrontation."We advise and insist that this warship not return to its former base in the Persian Gulf," said Brigadier General Ataollah Salehi, Iran's armed forces chief."We don't have the intention of repeating our warning, and we warn only once," he was quoted as saying by the armed forces' official website.The defiant message came just after Iran completed 10 days of naval manoeuvres at the entrance to the Gulf to show it could close the strategic oil shipping channel in the Strait of Hormuz if it felt threatened.In the climax of the war games on Monday, Iran test-fired three missiles -- including a new cruise missile -- designed to sink warships.The aircraft carrier Salehi was referring to was the USS John C. Stennis, one of the US navy's biggest warships. The massive, nuclear-powered vessel transports 90 fighter jets and helicopters and is usually escorted by around five destroyers. It is close to finishing its seven-month deployment at sea.The carrier last week passed through the Strait of Hormuz heading east across the Gulf of Oman and through the zone where the Iranian navy was holding its manoeuvres. The US Defence Department called its passage "routine".The potential for Iran-US conflict sent a shiver through oil markets Tuesday, helping oil prices jump more than a dollar a barrel.There was no sign of a let-up in the tensions.US President Barack Obama at the weekend signed into law new sanctions targeting Iran's central bank, which processes most of the Islamic republic's oil export sales.The European Union, which is mulling an embargo on Iranian oil, is expected to announce further sanctions of its own at the end of January.The Western sanctions add to four sets of UN sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear activities.The United States and many Western nations believe Iran is developing an atomic arsenal. Tehran denies that, saying its nuclear programme is exclusively for energy production and medical isotopes.In a gesture calculated to underline progress it has made, Iran's atomic energy organisation last Sunday said its scientists had made the country's first nuclear fuel rod from indigenous uranium.Iran's armed forces chief-of-staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, added to the defiance by saying Tuesday that the Revolutionary Guards, an elite military force apart from the regular defence services, would soon hold its own navy manoeuvres in the Gulf."Manoeuvres are part of the programme Iran's navy and Revolutionary Guards hold each year to increase their preparation. We will soon show the massive might of the Guards' naval forces," Firouzabadi was quoted as saying by the news agencies Fars and ISNA.Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters that "the foreign forces" present in the Gulf -- meaning the US navy -- "are against the security of the region." He said Iran's navy war games underlined his country's commitment to ensuring "stability and security in the region." Despite the increasingly bellicose stand Iran's military was taking, Tehran was keeping the door open to negotiating with world powers over its nuclear programme.Mehmanparast said Iran was "waiting" for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to set a date and venue for a meeting to discuss the resumption of talks that have been stalled for nearly a year.Read the full story here.
- Strait of Hormuz and Iranian threats.(ArabNews).By AbdulateefAl-Mulhim.They don’t have the military capability to close the world’s most important waterwayEvery five years, the Iranians would threaten the whole world that they would close the Strait of Hormuz. They never did. They simply can’t do it and they are not capable of doing it even if they wanted to do it.The Strait of Hormuz is the most important waterway in the world. It is about 35 miles wide. And an average of 15 oil tankers pass through it each day. Most people associate the Strait of Hormuz’s width with the navigation channel and the traffic separation scheme. This is a normal maritime procedure to separate inbound and outbound traffic. The width of the navigation channel is only six miles including the traffic separation scheme. The traffic is monitored by the Sultanate of Oman by radar located on an Omani island. Ships do eventually pass thorough Omani and Iranian territorial waters. A two-mile wide navigation channel is very narrow in maritime terms. And the strait is very shallow.My first experience with navigating the Strait of Hormuz was in 1983. The strait is very challenging to navigate. You are restricted in your ability to maneuver.Mariners still remember the collision in the early morning hours of March 20, 2009 between a US Navy submarine (USS Hartford) and a US Navy ship (USS New Orleans) when they were operating in the Strait of Hormuz. And on Jan. 10, 2007 there was a collision between a Japanese tanker and the US Navy submarine, USS Newport. This shows how difficult it is to operate in the strait. Also, the area of the strait was the scene of a fierce, one-sided battle in April 1988 between the US Navy and Iranian forces. The reason for the one-day battle was that the US Navy ship, USS Samuel Roberts struck a mine which was planted by the Iranians. And navy analysts expected to see Iran become more moderate after the battle in regard to the closure of the strait or mining the waters. The irony about this battle was that most of the Iranian aviators learned their flying skills in the same institute as the American aviators. They were all trained at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida. And most of the Iranian naval officers aboard the sunken frigate went to school with some of the American officers aboard the US Navy ships. Some of the Iranian and American officers aboard the ships involved in the battle were classmates of mine in America. The Iranian and American navies had officers who knew each other and attended the same school. And until 1980, there were Iranian officers who were roommates of American officers’ candidates in New York. The dead Iranian seamen have a statue at Behesht Alzahra in Tehran.In military sense, Iran could dump empty barrels in the middle of the navigation channel and declare to the world, it is mining the strait. Mariners take these threats at face value and treat the empty barrels as active mines. But, it is unlikely for Iran to declare anything in this nature. And if Iran announces an official declaration to close the Strait of Hormuz, then, Iran is committing a political and military suicide. The Iranians will not know what hit them. We all know what happened to Jamal Abdul Nasser when he closed the Strait of Tiran in 1967.Iran doesn’t have the military capability to close the strait. About three years after the 1988 battle with the Iranians, the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, while patrolling the Arabian Gulf, launched F-14, F-18 and E-2 aircraft day and night.The Nimitz was cruising at a speed of 2 knots (3.7 kilometers per hour). So, if the Nimitz can launch planes at this speed, this means it can cruise for three straight hours crossing the Strait of Hormuz six-mile navigation channel in perpendicular fashion and not worry about any maneuver. The Iranians knew about what the USS Nimitz can do. The Iranians later on decided to use a safer approach to defend the Iranian shores. They installed Silkworm Anti-Ship Missiles. But, later on they realized they can’t protect these missiles. They remembered what happened to the Syrians when they had their missiles in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon without air superiority.The Iranians don’t have the sophisticated torpedoes, sophisticated surface to air missiles and they don’t have any airborne radar (AWACS) capability. As for their outdated diesel submarine, the Iranians are not well trained for sophisticated under-water operations and their submarines have a very limited underwater capabilities. And the weakest Iranian military point is that they don’t have an air force. The F-14 (Tomcat) and F-4 (Phantom), the Iranian high-tech planes are very old and their radar system, like the F-14’s AWG9 radar is not working because of lack of maintenance, spare parts and age. Their pilots are always operating in the dark because they have no command and control. The only strength the Iranian have is the land forces. They could mass hundreds of thousands of soldiers. But, these forces will be useless for sea battles. And these land forces have no air support.And believe me, I have nothing against Iran. But, why doesn’t Iran try to get closer to its neighbors? And haven’t they learned from the lost hundreds of thousands of lives during the Iraq-Iran War? It is easy to start a war, but difficult to end it. The Iranian military does not want any new encounter with Americans. They simply want to live in peace and harmony.I lost many of my Iranian classmates from my school in New York in Iranian conflicts and adventures that should have been avoided. The sad thing is, those Iranians were truly officers and gentlemen. They didn’t need to die.Hmmmm.......If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.’ ~ Luke 16:31.Read the full story here.
- Harper's Conservatives laying groundwork for Office of Religious Freedom.(GlobeAndMail).By StevenChase.The Harper government is preparing to carve out a new role for Canada as a champion of religious rights abroad, another sign of the Conservative shift in foreign policy and one that has roots in the tragic 2011 assassination of a Pakistani cabinet minister.Early in 2012, the Tories will finally flesh out a campaign promise to install the Office of Religious Freedom within the secular confines of the Department of Foreign Affairs – a controversial pledge that has drawn accusations of vote pandering and blurring lines between church and state.The Conservatives are unapologetic about making a defence of the right to worship a central objective of Canadian foreign policy, noting, as a recent Pew Centre study found, that assaults around the world on religious freedom have increased in recent years.They say however it was a charismatic Pakistani foe of religious persecution that helped clinch their decision to create the office – a man who visited with Prime Minister Stephen Harper only weeks before he was shot dead in Islamabad.Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, was the first Pakistan minister for minority affairs and the only Christian serving in the Islamic state’s cabinet when he died on March 2, 2011. A militant Islamist group claimed responsibility for killing Mr. Bhatti, who had been urging reform of blasphemy laws.Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who’s also the party’s point man for outreach to new Canadian voters, said Mr. Bhatti made a major impression on Mr. Harper when they met in early February, 2011.“The Prime Minister was deeply affected by this as was everyone who had the chance to meet him,” the minister said. “His visit to Canada shortly before his assassination helped to galvanize within the government the reality of this kind of persecution.”The Conservatives say they were impressed by Mr. Bhatti’s refusal to stop fighting religious intolerance despite death threats.“Just before I brought Shahbaz to meet the Prime Minister, I told the Prime Minister it would be a miracle if the man he was about to meet would be alive in a few months’ time,” Mr. Kenney recalled.The minister said he counselled Mr. Bhatti against returning home – to no avail.“Shahbaz was very conscious that in returning to Pakistan he would be facing not just the possibility but also the likelihood of assassination,” the minister said.“I pleaded with him to consider staying in Canada, but he insisted that he had to be in solidarity with his people.”The new Conservative office – which will publicly criticize regimes that mistreat religious minorities – is in part a workaround to avoid the pushback the Tories previously encountered from the Foreign Affairs bureaucracy. Conservatives privately complain that civil servants in some instances resisted their efforts to raise concern about religious persecution.Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, for one, offers qualified support for the new office.He said it can “turn a Canadian spotlight on people in danger” and can provide the persecuted “with the protection of visibility and concern.”But he says it can’t be a tool for pressure groups the Conservatives hope to appease in Canada.“It’s a good thing provided it defends all cases of religious persecution, not just those that are bothering domestic constituencies at home, and that it doesn’t ignore other human-rights violations, which usually accompany religious persecution, like limits on freedom of the press, denial of democratic rights and persecution.”Hmmmm.......Once again in the frontline Canada.Read the full story here.
- Kosovo is 'Jerusalem' to the Serbs.(AlexanderMunch).Today Serbia, Bosnia and Albania are different nations. Kosovo and later perhaps Montenegro would also become different nations. But there was a time when all these people were one nation. There were differences of language among them, but they were bound by one faith - that of the Eastern Orthodox Church. A cataclysmic event in the fourteenth century was seared into their memory during which all of them paid the price of preserving their national and cultural identity with blood and death. While some survived to retain their original Eastern Orthodox Christian character, some nations were not so fortunate. Centuries of oppression by the Ottoman Turkish Jihadis made them sterile to their ancient history and has changed their character today. While today the Kosovars, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims remain European in their appearance and in some aspects of their culture, they have become Islamized to practice and propagate the faith of their erstwhile tormentors.The four centuries of Ottoman tyranny has left a split in the cultural character of the Balkan nations, a split along which there are bloody lines of civil and military strife among the people, all of whom bore the brunt of Muslim tyranny. But some of whom have forgotten that tyranny, by shifting their loyalty to their tormentors, and today carry forward the banner of those tormentors, while fighting against those of their compatriots, who have preserved an unbroken link with their original culture, religion and nationality.The same situation prevails in the Indian subcontinent where there is perpetual conflict between Hindus and Muslims within India and the conflict between India and Pakistan whose population is made up of Muslims who were formerly Hindus and embraced Islam as a result of the tyranny of Muslim rulers who had occupied the country for eight hundred years. Read the full story here.
- Turkey to issue Cyprus ultimatum, let’s remarry or divorce.(Hurriyetdaily).What is left in our minds about the annual meeting of Turkish ambassadors who spent an entire week supposedly brainstorming ideas for 2012? We will mostly recall several ministers lecturing Turkish diplomats and the colorful views from their visit to Ankara.Actually, it seems they did find couple of hours to brainstorm; indeed their meeting on Cyprus was apparently quite a stormy one. How could it not be? If the prevailing view of the diplomats is endorsed by the government, 2012 will prove to be an extremely critical year not only for Cyprus but for Turkish-EU relations as well.The general line to have come out of the meeting could be summarized as follows: “Turkish Cyprus is ready for remarriage but it is also ready for divorce. If Greek Cyprus does not want a one state solution then Turks are ready to negotiate a two state solution.”Some however argued for a more radical approach, which will have serious consequences on Turkish accession talks, using Cyprus to engineer a brinkmanship scenario bringing Turkish-EU relations back from the brink of a train crash. The aim is to get the train back on track and moving.Indeed, the Turkish train has slowed down so much it has nearly come to a standstill. The train that is accession talks cannot move forward unless there is a solution to the Cyprus problem. Solutions means concessions, but Greek Cypriots do not like the term, especially ahead of the presidential elections in 2013. As they are EU members, Greek Cypriots believe they can use Turkey’s membership bid to pressure for concessions in Cyprus talks.Only heavy pressure from European powers backed by the United States can change Greek Cyprus’ current stance. Yet, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are extremely happy to see Cyprus blocking Turkish accession talks. In the current state of affairs, Cyprus talks are not going anywhere, with the detrimental consequence of bringing Turkey’s accession talks to a standstill.“The EU is a mechanism that only moves forward in times of crisis,” a Turkish diplomat once told me. Why not use crisis diplomacy to get accession talks moving. The Turkish side could declare it will not return to the negotiation table if no solution is found until June 2012, when Greek Cypriots will assume EU’s presidency.Hmmmmm....Read the full story here.
- Fury of Moscow over bid to call Estonian SS soldiers 'freedom fighters'.(DailyMail).Estonia has caused outrage with plans to honour hundreds of Nazi collaborators. The EU country is expected to give official ‘freedom fighter’ status to veterans of the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division. Several hundred who fought in the Estonian SS gather annually to commemorate their role in battles against Soviet forces.The division was founded in 1944 by the occupying Nazis.The veterans say they allied with the Nazis to defend their country from the Soviets but anti-Nazi campaigners claim the troops were involved in war crimes against civilians.Johan Backman, of World without Nazism, said: ‘The Estonian SS legionaries did not fight for Estonia. They fought for Hitler.’ Russia described the move as ‘blasphemous and unacceptable’.Several hundred men who fought in the Estonian SS still gather every year to commemorate their role in battles against Soviet forces. The division was founded in 1944 by the occupying Nazis - three years after Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded Russia with the most powerful invasion force in history.More than three million German troops attacked in three parallel offensives. Despite warnings that Germany could not fight a war on two fronts, Hitler saw the Russian invasion of Romania in 1940 as a threat to his Balkan oil supply and invaded with 3,000 tanks, 2,500 aircraft and 7,000 artillery pieces.The Red Army was disorganised and the Germans were able to push 300 miles into Russia before the winter hit and the advance slowed.The war on the Eastern Front went on for four bloody years and arguably resulted in the eventual defeat of the Nazis.At the last gathering of the Estonian veterans in August last year, they were promised the Tallinn government was moving to officially recognise them in 2012. The move is being spearheaded by powerful Defence Minister Mart Laar, the country's ex-premier.'If Mart Laar makes any promise, he will move to his goal like a tank, and you will be freedom fighters as early as next year,' said Tarmo Kruusimae, activist of ruling party Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica.Legislation is now being drawn up in Tallinn which now aims to keep this promise to all those who fought in Estonia against the USSR.The SS veterans claim they only allied with the Nazis to defend their country from Soviet invasion. In the event, their efforts failed and the Baltic state was swallowed up by the Soviet Union for more than four decades.But anti-Nazi campaigners dismiss this and claim the Estonians were collaborators involved in war crimes against civilians.Mr Backman, a leader of the international human rights group World Without Nazism, added: 'The government is trying to create a new history of Estonia, which is very dangerous for the young generation.'The Russian embassy in Tallinn claimed legislation to name them 'freedom fighters' was a bid to 'cover the atrocities committed by Estonian Nazi collaborators'.This was 'blasphemous and unacceptable' and should be abandoned, said Moscow.'We hope that in this case common sense, conscience and a feeling of responsibility will prevail.'Hmmmm...........The Nuremberg Trials, in declaring the Waffen SS a criminal organisation, explicitly excluded conscripts in the following terms:Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph who became or remained members of the organisation with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter or who were personally implicated as members of the organisation in the commission of such crimes, excluding, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, and who had committed no such crimes. In April 13, 1950, a message from the U.S. High Commission in Germany (HICOG), signed by John McCloy to the Secretary of State, clarified the US position on the "Baltic Legions": they were not to be seen as "movements", "volunteer", or "SS". In short, they were not given the training, indoctrination, and induction normally given to SS members. Subsequently the US Displaced Persons Commission in September 1950 declared that:The Baltic Waffen SS Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre had provided the Estonian government with information on alleged Estonian war criminals, all former members of the 20.Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS. After investigation, the Estonian government concluded that the claims were false and rejected the centre's demands to try the veterans.On May 22, 2004, the Jerusalem Post ran a story about the plans of some Estonian individuals to build a monument to the 20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS. International outrage followed, due to the criminal status of the non-conscript Waffen-SS, after the Nuremberg Trials. Russia's chief Rabbi, Berl Lazar condemned the action, stating it would breed anti-Semitism.The matter of the Estonian SS is still hotly debated.Read the full story here, more on the 20.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Estland Nr. 1) here.
- Turkish Palestinian friendship group in Iran.(HurriyetDaily).Members of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Group discussed the Palestinian dispute with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran.The Turkish group discussed not only Turkish-Iranian relations but also Turkish-Iranian cooperation in regional issues. Murat Yıldırım, the head of the group, visited the Iranian capital and first met Hasan Gaffuri Ferd, the head of the Iranian-Palestinian Friendship Group, at the Iranian Parliament. The Turkish delegation later met Alaaddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee and Hussein Sheikholeslam, the international adviser to Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. The delegation exchanged views on the Palestine dispute and said the dispute was the common problem of the whole Islam world and Palestinian people had the right to self-determination and an independent state. Members of the Turkish group said international efforts should be maintained to lift Israeli embargoes on Gaza.Hmmmm......Hamas - Turkey - Iran.Read the full story here.
- Thousands flee South Sudan tribal conflict .(AlJazeera).The UN says up to 50,000 people may have fled the violence in the latest episode of upheaval in South Sudan.Tens of thousands of villagers in South Sudan are hiding in the bush, waiting for UN and government troops to stop a tribal conflict, which officials fear may have left scores of people dead over the weekend.Armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe marched on the remote town of Pibor in Jonglei state, home to the rival Murle people, who they blame for cattle raiding."The situation is tense as the Lou Nuer are still around Pibor," Jonglei state information minister Isaac Ajiba said on Monday.Thatched huts have been burned and Parthesarathy Rajendran, the head of Doctors without Borders (known by its French name Medicines sans Frontieres, or MSF) in South Sudan, said thousands have been displaced, including his own staff."Many of our staff are in the bush and we also heard an MSF clinic has been damaged and looted," he told Al Jazeera."MSF is the only medical health care in the whole region and the population is very vulnerable for all kinds of medical issues."So we are very concerned about those fleeing into the bush. They don't have access to water, medical care or food."The government and the UN, which has warned the violence could lead to a "major tragedy" were strengthening their forces in the area."We are worried about their conditions. They are without water, shelter and food. They are hiding in the bush. I think it is between 20,000 and 50,000. This is an estimate only," Lise Gande, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for South Sudan, told the Reuters news agency.Grande said on Sunday that the number of government forces heading to Pibor was estimated at 3,000 troops and 800 police.AlJazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from a village belonging to the Murle tribe, said the situation was tense, with deserted streets."All you see is soldiers and guns, lots and lots of guns," she said. "It doesn't feel like a normal place."The UN here is trying by all means to reassure the few that are left that it's safe to return."Reverend Mark Akec Cien, head of the Sudan Council of Churches, an umbrella organisation with members across the area, said they had reports of many killed and wounded in the clashes."The situation is very bad, there have been heavy casualties, and the Murle have fled out of the town," Cien said from South Sudan's capital Juba, adding that some gunmen were reportedly chasing those running away."The Lou Nuer are there in the town, but others have left chasing after the Murle," he said.More than 30 people were killed in Lukangol, about 30km north of Pibor, where Lou Nuer fighters attacked last week, burning the settlement to the ground, Cien said, quoting reports from the ground."There are several wounded too, some say over 80, and that does not include the Lou Nuer, as they are not saying how many may be casualties from the fighting," he said.Members of the Murle tribe began fleeing towards Pibor several days ago after the Lou Nuer raided the town of Lukangol, which reportedly has been reduced to ashes.Riek Machar, South Sudan's vice-president, has called on the Lou Nuer youths to pull back to their towns as per an agreement reached on December 28, which was meant to calm tensions.The deal has yet to be implemented, and spokesmen for the Lou Nuer were quoted as saying that they would not stop their advance on the Murle people until their rivals were disarmed.A group calling itself the Nuer Youth White Army issued a statement on December 26 vowing to "wipe out the entire Murle tribe ... as the only solution to guarantee long-term security of Nuer cattle".Read and see (Video) the full story here.
- One of pre-history’s great WTFs. Stone Age temple found in Orkney is 800 years older than Stonehenge - and may be more important.(Sweasel).Okay, so the Orknies are those islands on the North coast of Scotland. Bleak, tiny and cold as witch titty. And eight years ago, archeologists discovered a gigantic Neolithic building complex up there. Presumably a temple complex, because the thing is so huge and weird.How huge? Well the site — smack between two well-known stone circles — is (I believe they said) the size of four football fields end-to-end (presumably they meant soccer fields, which are even bigger than real football fields). They’ve only excavated a tiny part of it, but scans say there are about a hundred buildings total.And by buildings, I mean dressed stone buildings with slate rooves and weirdly curvy walls fifteen feet thick. Some evidence of carving and painting on the walls, lots of tools and bits of pottery. Whatever they were doing up there in the ass end of nowhere, they were doing it for a thousand years, somehow keeping themselves amply supplied with workmen, man-hours and quarried stone. Peat for the fires and food for the priests.Oh, and they found a pit full of beef bones. Testing showed the cattle were raised on fodder with a high nitrogen content — in other words, raised by farmers who used sophisticated fertilizer, presumably manure-based. But — get this — these cattle were all slaughtered at the same, or about the same, time.They had a beef feast for 10,000 and smashed the whole place up, deliberately. Probably not invaders, because another similarly-constructed hall was then built on the ruins.And this five hundred years before Stonehenge was assembled.If you’re in the UK, you can catch a program about it on the iPlayer for another week (sorry, fellow Yanks — I can’t watch Hulu, you can’t watch BBC). If not, you can follow the dig’s own site (excavation ended in August and will begin again in June, but there’s lots of background information). Oh, if you must, here’s an overview from the Daily Mail.Read and see the full story here.
- Police confiscate speakers from Jaffa mosque.(Ynet).Large Yassam, Border Guard and police forces on Tuesday raided the complex of the Abu Sayaf family in Jaffa and confiscated speakers that were used to play Muezzin calls in a mosque situated on the premises.Around 9:20 am, dozens of Yassam and Border Guard officers arrived at the scene and raided the complex. Several minutes later they left with the speakers. An article published in Yedioth Tel Aviv last week revealed that the Abu Sayaf family set up a loudspeaker system in the mosque, and played the Muezzin call to prayer five times a day. Many residents in the surrounding streets complained about the loud volume, calling it a nuisance. As it turns out, the person who eventually came to their help was no other than Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), whose mother Esther Lieberman lives in a nearby street. However it was the mother's neighbor, Ludmila Cherkov, who turned to the minister for help. "I've known Avigdor for many years. He comes every week to visit his mother. He's always here. I decided to turn to him during one of his visits and raise the problem we have been facing. We have been suffering day and night because of this new Muezzin call and for me Lieberman was the last resort," Cherkov noted. The Abu Sayaf family claimed the move came on the heels of a recent bill, dubbed the "Muezzin bill," which proposes to restrict the Muslim call for prayer. "We've been praying in this mosque for years, and a few months ago we set up some speakers to call people over for prayer. The neighbors didn’t complain, and we received no warning before the search warrant," claimed Ali Abu Sayaf. "Suddenly, dozens of cops came in and dismantled the speakers. "We maintain coexistence; if they would have asked us to play the prayers more quietly, we would have invited them for a cup of coffee and lowered the volume," he added.The chairman of the adjacent Ajami neighborhood committee Kamal Agbaria said in response: "The cops acted as if they were carrying out a military operation for all intents and purposes. "This is a house of prayer that serves as a mosque. This move is part of the state's attempt to legislate the 'Muezzin bill.' It is an infringement on the freedom of worship. The calls are not terrorizing, but rather a soothing call to prayer, which can be enjoyed. Next Friday we will hold a mass prayer in protest," he said.Agbaria added that "the atmosphere of a radical rightist wave that is sweeping over the country has reached the courts. We have also seen this with the Grunis Law that was passed in the Knesset."Democracy is trampling over the minority and is pushing for an unnecessary war of religion," he said. Read the full story here.
- Egypt’s Islamist parties allay public fears but say no presidency for Copts.(AlArabiya).As the top two parties in the first two phases of Egypt’s parliamentary elections and expected to score a similar victory in the third phase, the two Islamist parties Freedom and Justice, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative al-Nour party list have been under the limelight as concerns over the future of the country under Islamist rule keep rising. Two representatives from both parties were invited by Al Arabiya in Cairo to answer questions, allay fears, and reiterate what they saw as non-debatable issues.The issue of religious minorities and the way they are to be treated in case the Sharia (Islamic law) is applied was raised in the interview with Adel Abdul Maksoud Afifi, head of the Salafist al-Asala Party, which came second on al-Nour Party List, and Saad al-Husseini, member of the Freedom and Justice Party executive bureau.“Before international laws came out, it was the sharia that granted Copts all their rights,” Afifi told Al Arabiya’s Parliament Race Monday.However, Afifi added, Copts are still not allowed to become presidents or to run for presidency.“The same applies to women.” Afifi pointed out that the issue of applying the Sharia is the point of contention between Islamists and secularists and that the latter need to decide where they stand as far as this is concerned. According to Husseini, all the 40 parties that ran in the parliamentary elections through the Freedom and Justice party list, also called the Democratic Alliance, agree that Islamic law should be the main source of legislation.“The document issued by al-Azhar has this article, too, and even Christians agree to applying Islamic laws,” he told Parliament Race Monday. Husseini explained that Islamic laws are the best guarantor of the rights of Copts.“Through Islamic laws, Copts can resort to their own legislations and will have freedom of faith and the right to build churches. They will also be allowed to assume official positions.”However, Husseini said, a Copt cannot become president.“This is not fanaticism. There is a logical argument behind this.”Husseini added that a big part of people’s apprehension over Islamist rule comes from the media rather than from Islamists themselves. “There are several media outlets that have ulterior motives so they blow statements by Islamists out of proportion.”When asked about the consumption of alcohol, Husseini stressed that drinking and selling alcohol are forbidden in Islam.“Yet Islamic laws also prohibit spying on private places and this applies to beaches as well.”Husseini added that other priorities take precedence over alcohol and beaches like food and medical care and fighting corruption and restoring security. “This is what Islamic law tells us to do and even after we are done with all that, we won’t still be preoccupied with alcohol and beaches.Tourism, Husseini pointed out, is very important for Egypt.“I wish 50 million tourists would travel to Egypt even if they come nude.” As for the arts, Afifi, who studied music, said he is all for sophisticated art that serves society and mentioned opera in specific. “As for the movie industry, it is not possible for a government to determine what films should be like because social problems cannot be solved through laws.”Regarding the possibility of imposing certain codes of dress or behavior on Egyptians, Husseini said that this is not possible.“You cannot force people to behave in a certain way because this falls under personal freedom and only God has the right to punish people for this.” Husseini cited the example of his three sisters and three daughters who do not wear the face veil. “They only donned the headscarf because they believed they should,” he concluded. Read the full story here.
- Egypt Christian teenager given 15 days in jail over Prophet images on Facebook.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: An Egyptian Christian teenager, accused of posting insulting images of the Prophet Mohamed on his Facebook page has been given an additional 15 days in detention pending an investigation, Egyptian security officials told Bikyamasr.com on Tuesday.The prosecutor reportedly said that an investigation is underway over the matter, which led to clashes in southern Egypt after the young boy’s arrest last week.State media reported on Saturday that Gamal Masoud, a secondary school student from Assuit in the southern part of the country, had been ordered to remain in custody for four days after he posted images of the Prophet Mohamed on his Facebook page. It appears his detention has been extended.According to prosecutors on Saturday, Masoud had posted images believed to be “offensive” to Islam and could be faced with charges of “contempt of Islam.”According to the young student, the images were posted to his page without his knowledge, but could do little to stop the investigation from moving forward.Security and military troops were deployed across Masoud’s village and neighboring areas after angry Muslims torched houses belonging to Christians, state media reported.George Ishaq, a leading figure of the National Coalition for Change, told Bikyamasr.com in a previous interview that both Christians and Muslims must understand they have faced similar oppression over the past few decades under the Mubarak government.“Egyptians, both Christian and Muslim, have to understand we live in the same country and if we do not believe we are in this together, then the revolution will fail and we will fall back to dictatorship and mistrust,” he said.Leading feminist thinker Nawal al-Saadawi agrees with Ishaq’s assertion. She told Bikyamasr.com that “sectarianism is a very recent concept in Egypt.”What she believes is that the intolerance that has arisen in the country, and which has led to violence and deaths, “is a result of the growing Gulf conservative Islam that is slowing permeating Egyptian society. It isn’t something that we can let go, but we can fight it and get things done to make people believe that Egypt is for all Egyptians, Christian and Muslim.”Read the full story here.
- How long before the "Jordan Spring"?Jordan parliament rebukes Islamists for “military parade".(BikyaMasr).Amman (dpa) – Jordan’s lower house of parliament on Monday accused the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition group, of arranging a “military parade” in Amman last week to press for political reform.“This provocative, muscle-flexing move has turned the pro-reform peaceful mobility into a military, factional mobility that ignores dialogue and the need to abide by the country’s laws,” the house said in a statement.Several thousand Muslim Brotherhood followers, including scores of youth wearing green headbands, staged a demonstration after Friday prayers in central Amman to protest an attack, by a “pro-government mob” on a rally in Mafraq, 60 kilometers east of Amman, on December 23.The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, have been involved in almost weekly demonstrations over the past 10 months to push their demand for political reform, including the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.Hmmmm......King Abdullah II is for sure no King Hussein. Read the full story here.
- Belarus: Browsing Foreign Websites a Misdemeanor.(Cryptogon).As stated in an explanatory note published together with the Law, this act was issued to implement the Decree of the Belarusian President of February 1, 2010, on Improvements to the Usage of the National Segment of the Internet. The newly published Law imposes restrictions on visiting and/or using foreign websites by Belarusian citizens and residents. Under this new Law, the violation of these rules is recognized as a misdemeanor and is punished by fines of varied amounts, up to the equivalent of US$125. (Id.)The Law requires that all companies and individuals who are registered as entrepreneurs in Belarus use only domestic Internet domains for providing online services, conducting sales, or exchanging email messages. It appears that business requests from Belarus cannot be served over the Internet if the service provider is using online services located outside of the country. The tax authorities, together with the police and secret police, are authorized to initiate, investigate, and prosecute such violations. (Id.)Additionally, the Law states that the owners and administrators of Internet cafés or other places that offer access to the Internet might be found guilty of violating this Law and fined and their businesses might be closed if users of Internet services provided by these places are found visiting websites located outside of Belarus and if such behavior of the clients was not properly identified, recorded, and reported to the authorities. The Law states that this provision may apply to private individuals if they allow other persons to use their home computers for browsing the Internet. (Id.)Also, the Law authorizes the government to establish and update the list of banned websites to which access should be blocked by Internet providers.Hmmmm......Lukashenko the last Sovjet era dictator, i wonder if the leadership will also go to his son?Read the full story here.
- 2012 Doomsday sign? Thousands of dead herring have been discovered washed up on a north Norwegian beach.(RE).Thousands of dead herring have been discovered washed up on a north Norwegian beach - prompting Doomsday predictors to hail it as another sign the world is set to end. More than 20 tonnes of the fish is currently carpeting the beach of Kvaenes, in Nordreisa, with experts views differing on how they have come to be there. One thing is for sure, it will provide welcome ammunition to those believing the Mayan prophecy that 2012 will bring the end of Earth. Jan-Petter Jorgensen, 44, was walking with his dog Molly when he found the stinky haul. He said: 'People say that something similar happened in the 80s. Maybe the fish have been caught in a deprived oxygen environment, and then died of fresh water?' Experts have said the school could have been trapped by tidal waters after predatory fish - such as coalfish - chased them towards the shoreline. Another theory is that the fish were washed ashore during a recent storm, or trapped in shallow waters and affected by freshwater from a river that flows into the bay. Jens Christian Holst, of the Institute of Marine Research, said several factors could have come together at once. And he said he hoped they would be able to conduct tests on the dead fish to see if they had died of a disease.Read the full story here.More here.
- Another 2012 Doomsday sign?Unusual geological event... Super volcano awakening in Europe - Germany?(RE).Fresh activity near a dormant 'super volcano' in Germany has left experts worried about a possible eruption. Britain's Daily Mail wrote the eruption from the 'monster' underneath Laacher See lake near Bonn, could eject billions of tons of magma which in turn could cause widespead devastation in Europe and even 'short-term global cooling'. The mountain last erupted 12,900 years ago. Volcanologists have estimated the mountain's size to be similar to that of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines - responsible for the biggest ejection of the 20th century. Pinatubo threw up '10 billion tons of magma, 20 billion tons of sulphur dioxide 16 cubic kilometres of ash and caused a 0.5C drop in global temperatures'. Experts near the Laacher See site have detected carbon dioxide bubbles on the lake's surface and believe the mountain in Germany could be active again.Read the full story here.