Saturday, February 4, 2012
‘Act of Valor’: Top to Bottom U.S. Navy Propaganda Film, Uses Active Duty SEALs as Actors, Raw Footage Kept for ‘Training and Other Purposes’
The Navy held final cut privileges in order to remove any frames to address security concerns and kept raw footage to use for real-life training and other purposes.More here HT: Cryptogon.
US Lawmakers say “days of blank checks” are over for Egypt’s military junta.(Yahoo).WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading senator warned Egypt's military-led government on Friday that "the days of blank checks are over" as an Egyptian army team huddled with State Department officials to discuss the future of $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, issued a blistering attack on Egypt's crackdown on local and U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups and warned that Congress could block future aid unless changes are made."We want to send a clear message to the Egyptian military that the days of blank checks are over. We value the relationship and will provide substantial amounts of aid, but not unconditionally," Leahy said in his statement.Leahy joined a growing number of U.S. lawmakers from both political parties who have expressed outrage over the swoop on non-governmental organizations, which has seen a number of U.S. staffers barred from leaving Egypt.In two joint letters released on Friday, more than 40 U.S lawmakers warned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling military council, that U.S. aid to the Egyptian military hung in the balance."The absence of a quick and satisfactory resolution to this issue will make it increasingly difficult for congressional supporters of a strong U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship to defend current levels of assistance to Egypt," the letters said.Hmmmm......FlashBack:"MFS - The Other News" May 2011 "Muslim Brotherhood to Obama : "Go to Hell".Egyptian Government Rejects US Conditional Aid".Read the full story here.
Don’t Trust Satellite Phones - Satellite Phone Encryption Cracked.(Telegraph).German academics said they had cracked two encryption systems used to protect satellite phone signals and that anyone with cheap computer equipment and radio could eavesdrop on calls over an entire continent. Hundreds of thousands of satellite phone users are thought to be affected.
“We were able to completely reverse engineer the encryption algorithms employed,” said Benedikt Driessen and Ralf Hund of Ruhr University Bochum as they announced their report, “Don’t Trust Satellite Phones”.
The encryption algorithms are known as GMR-1 and GMR-2, and are standards used across satellite phone operators, including Thuraya, a leading providers. Their technology is widely used in the Middle East and Africa, including in some military applications.
Mr Driessen told The Telegraph that the equipment and software needed to intercept and decrypt satellite phone calls from hundreds of thousands of users would cost as little as $2,000. His demonstration system takes up to half an hour to decipher a call, but a more powerful computer would allow eavesdropping in real time, he said.Read the full story here.
FordowIsraeli Defense minister Ehud Barak implies a strike on Iran nuclear program is near.(CSMonitor).By Joshua Mitnick.Tensions between Israel and Iran are on the rise after a group of top Israeli leaders engaged in a round of saber-rattling on Thursday and Iran’s Supreme Leader answered on Friday with a pledge to "remove" Israel.Speaking at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's annual conference, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak compared the current standoff with Iran to the "fateful" period before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt.At the same conference, Israel’s military intelligence chief, Aviv Kochavi said that Iran had enough nuclear material to make four bombs, and could construct a missile within three years. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that "an unconventional country can’t be allowed to have a nonconventional weapon" and that "a nuclear Iran would be the nightmare of the West."
Even though Israeli leaders have been heartened by international sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear program, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes only, the chorus of warnings from Israel reflect growing anxiety among some leaders that Iran may still obtain a nuclear bomb. "The temperature is rising in Israel," says Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst in Tel Aviv. He says that if the defense minister sees the current period as similar to the run-up to the  Six-Day War, "that gives credibility to those who think Israel is going to launch an attack."Comparing Iran’s regime to Nazi Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it is Israel’s right to act to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.Hmmmm.......On Thursday Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.IMHO: THE ONLY THING THAT THIS COULD BE IS EITHER A TEST OF A NUKE OR THE USE OF A NUKE.Read the full story here.
GOP Rep. Allen West: Someone's 'playing around with' unemployment numbers.(TheHill).By Daniel Strauss. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) is suspicious about the newly released January unemployment numbers. In response to news that the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 8.3 percent and the unemployment rate in the black community declined from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent, West floated the possibility that the numbers might have been cooked. "Can someone tell me how employment in the black community has improved at a rate three times the national average in just a few months?? With numbers like today, urban communities should be well on their way to economic recovery then! There is something suspicious about the job numbers released today and it has me very concerned," West wondered Friday. "Is this dramatic supposed decrease in black unemployment a result of job creation or is someone playing around with the census numbers??"Hmmm.....As unemployment numbers go down......Food stamp users go up, is the rise equal?Read the full story here.
Polish PM Caves In to the people their demands, Freezes ACTA Ratification.(Novinite).Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk has yielded to mass protests, announcing Friday that his government would put on hold plans to ratify ACTA, the controversial international online anti-piracy accord.
"I consider that the arguments for a halt to the ratification process are justified," Donald Tusk told reporters, as cited by international media."The issue of signing of the ACTA accord did not involve sufficient consultation with everyone who is part of the process," Tusk said, adding that he would hold broad talks on what to do next."The ACTA ratification process will be frozen as long as we haven't overcome all the doubts. This will probably require a review of Polish law. We can't rule out that, at the end of the day, this accord will not be approved," he declared.
Tusk's decision comes in the wake of high-profile protests mostly by young Poles who fear the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) -- aimed at creating international standards for intellectual property protection -- could significantly curtail online freedom.
ACTA was negotiated between the 27-nation European Union, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet has also come under fire for the secret signing of ACTA.
Even though Bulgaria has seen no street rallies, massive outcry by Internet users and ISPs led on Thursday Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to declare that ACTA will be applied with reservations and will be supplemented by the existing Bulgarian legislation in its part referring to Internet content.Hmmmm.........President Obama could learn a lesson in Democracy from Poland it seems.Read the full story here.
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Philipines 6.0 - 5.5 ; Tonga 5.8 - 5.5 ; Mongolia 5.5 - 5.4!More info here.
- Iran blocks IAEA inspectors at Parchin military site.(JPost).By REUTERS.VIENNA - Iran's apparent reluctance to let UN inspectors visit a military site near Tehran underlines the uphill task they face in getting the Islamic state to address suspicions it may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons, Western diplomats say. They say the UN nuclear watchdog sought access to the Parchin complex during three days of talks in the Iranian capital, so far without any sign that Iran would agree to it.More meetings are scheduled for later this month - rare direct dialogue in the long-running international dispute, which has deepened as the West pursues punitive embargos on Iranian oil and Tehran threatens retaliation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) named Parchin in a detailed report in November that lent independent weight to Western fears that Iran is working to develop an atomic bomb, an allegation Iranian officials reject. The UN agency has not said whether the issue was among those it raised in the January 29-31 discussions in Tehran aimed at shedding light on possible nuclear-linked weapons development work, but diplomats accredited to the IAEA said it was. The senior IAEA team requested "access to Parchin, which Iran did not provide", one Western diplomat said.The senior IAEA team requested "access to Parchin, which Iran did not provide", one Western diplomat said. He and others suggested that Iran had sidestepped the question rather than rejected it outright during the meetings with the IAEA delegation headed by the agency's global inspections chief, Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts. "They asked to see a particular site and they never got an answer," another envoy said. "The bottom line is: Iran did not engage the agency on the issues the agency wanted to discuss.""There was nothing achieved on this visit," the Western envoy said. "I was never optimistic. This just reinforces my pessimism." In a new sign of Iran's refusal to back down, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would retaliate over Western-backed oil sanctions and any threat of attack, insisting outside pressure would not halt its nuclear work.Suspicions about activities at the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran date back at least to 2004 when a prominent nuclear expert said satellite images showed it may be a site for research and testing relevant for nuclear weapons. In 2005, UN inspectors visited the large site, but not the place where the IAEA now believes the explosives chamber was built.Hmmmm.....That's almost eight years of refusal.Read the full story here.
- Is Iran about to test a Nuclear weapon?(AstuteBloggers).By ReliaPundit. Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.IMHO: THE ONLY THING THAT THIS COULD BE IS EITHER A TEST OF A NUKE OR THE USE OF A NUKE.Hmmm.....Last year the Former mossad chief warned of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon in 2012.And The maximum of 3,000 centrifuges that Fodow can contain will never produce enough to supply the fuel needed for a nuclear reactor.However, their performance is perfect for making nuclear bombs.So i wouldn't be surprised.Read the full story here.
- Perfect: Obama pulls combat pay for U.S. troops.(DougRoss).But he obviously holds the U.S. military in very high esteem.President Obama’s latest policy outrage makes no attempt to hide his contempt for our military, as he is ordering that our troops serving overseas in war zones overseas are not to receive combat pay unless they are being shot at.In other words, the president continues to siphon off more and more money from our defense infrastructure -- hitting our warriors first, last and hardest in the process -- to fund his green energy scams and public sector union cronies (which, coincidentally, also contribute heavily to his campaign).Read the full story here.
- Iran Starts Mass-Production of Naval Cruise Missile.(Fars).Iran on Saturday inaugurated the production line of a newly unveiled naval cruise missile, called Zafar (Triumph). The production line was inaugurated by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi in a ceremony at the Defense Ministry' Aerospace Industries Organization on the occasion of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies, celebrating the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution back in 1979. The ceremony was also attended by Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Naval Force Brigadier General Ali Fadavi. During the ceremony, the first cargo of Zafar missiles was delivered to the IRGC. Speaking to reporters, Vahid said that "Zafar is a short-range, anti-ship, radar guided missile capable of hitting and destroying small and medium-sized targets with high precision". He added that the missile can be mounted onto light and speed boats, enjoys a high capability in anti-electronic warfare and is highly destructive. Read the full story here.
- Iranian Navy Ships Arrive in Saudi Port.(Fars).The 18th flotilla of warships dispatched by Iran to the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy mission docked at the Saudi port city of Jeddah today, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Saturday.The Iranian Navy dispatched its 18th flotilla of warships to the Gulf of Aden on January 21 to protect the country's cargo ships and oil tankers against Somali pirates. Addressing a ceremony here in Tehran today, Sayyari said the Iranian Navy's fleet of warships, comprised of Khark warship and Shahid Naqdi destroyer, docked at Jeddah this morning, and added that the mission is part of the Navy's moves in line with the orders of the Supreme Leader for having a stronger presence in the high seas. The commander said that the navy ships' 70-80-day mission is aimed at demonstrating Iran's power in the high seas. While enemies try to portray Iran's growing power as a threat to the regional states, the Admiral indicated that such missions prove that Iran's military power is used to defend the region and can, thus, defuse the plot hatched by the enemies to spread Iranophobia.Hmmmm......Placing the pawns on the chess game board.Read the full story here.
- Iran's SNSC, Three Branches of Power Studying Cut of Oil Supplies to EU.(Fars).Iranian parliamentary sources revealed on Saturday that the country's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and three branches of power (the Parliament, the Government and the Judiciary) are studying a double-urgency bill of the parliament on cutting crude exports to the European countries. "Apart from the SNSC, the issue is important for the parliament, government and the country's macro-scale decision-making levels," member of the parliament's Presiding Board Omidvar Rezayee told FNA, referring to the finalization of the parliament's last week bill on cutting oil exports to the EU members. He said the issue is presently under study at the SNSC and economic departments of the three branches of power, and added, "They will take the final decision in this regard."After the EU oil ban against Iran, members of the Iranian parliament finalized a draft bill on cutting the country's oil exports to the European states in retaliation for the EU move. "The bill has 4 articles, including one which states that the Islamic Republic of Iran will cut all oil exports to the European states until they end their oil sanctions against the country," Vice-Chairman of the parliament's Energy Commission Nasser Soudani told FNA last Saturday.In relevant remarks on Saturday, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi also underlined Tehran's determination to retaliate against the western states' oil ban against the country, and said Iran will certainly cut its oil exports to certain European countries. "Export of oil to certain European countries will certainly be cut," Qassemi said in a press conference on Saturday. "We will decide on stopping oil exports to other European countries later," he added.Read the full story here.
- Damascus denies responsibility for deaths of more than 400 civilians ahead of U.N. vote.(AlArabiya).Damascus on Saturday said gunmen were responsible for the killing of more than 400 civilians across Syria, the state media reported. At least 416 civilians were killed by the Syrian forces across the country while the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) vowed to fight back with intense operations against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.Early Saturday, the anti-Assad regime army intensified its campaign against the government’s forces as it destroyed an air intelligence building in Homs, the Syrian Media Center reported. Hours later, the media center said that a huge explosion took place in Hama close to the border entrance of Halab. And in the rebel-held al-Zabadani, the opposition fighters went on to surround a government security building, the media center said. Ammar al-Wawi, an FSA official, told Al Arabiya that the free army vows more operations against Assad’s forces to include targets such as military and police headquarters.Initially, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 138 of the fatalities were caused by mortar fire in the Al-Khalidiya district of Homs, which has become a flashpoint of the 10-month revolt against the regime of Assad. Civilians, including women and children were killed, a rights group said on Saturday. But Al Arabiya correspondent said that the death toll in Homs alone included 337 people killed and 1,300 others injured. The correspondent also reported that the Khalidiya hospital in Homs was destroyed.Residents said Syrian forces began shelling the Khalidiya neighborhood at around 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday using artillery and mortars. They said at least 36 houses were completely destroyed with families inside.“We were sitting inside our house when we started hearing the shelling. We felt the bombardment was falling on our heads,” said Waleed a resident of Khalidiya.As Syrians rushed to aid victims and carried on with funerals in Homs, Assad forces continued with attacks, Al Arabiya correspondent said, adding that nail bombs were used during the shelling campaign against the city.It was not immediately clear what had prompted Syrian forces to launch such an intense bombardment at a time when diplomats at the U.N. Security Council are discussing a draft resolution on an Arab League plan calling for Assad to give up power.Another 79 people were killed in other parts of town. The grim tolls, if confirmed, would mark the bloodiest day of the almost 11-month uprising against Assad’s regime.“It’s a real massacre,” the observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, calling for the “immediate intervention” of the Arab League to end the killing.Al Arabiya showed images of dozens of bodies on the ground and scenes of chaos in the city, with several buildings destroyed.Residents claiming to be from Homs took to Twitter to send out updates. One spoke of a city that “is bleeding” and under heavy bombardment and another counted “366 explosions tonight so far.”Amid growing concern that Syria is sliding into all-out civil war, an officer with the FSA claimed the regular army “is in a pitiful state and getting close to collapsing.”Read the full story here.
- Report: Fast and Furious "Fix is in" and Boehner is behind it.(BN).As I readied myself for what promised to be a bombshell of a hearing on February 2nd, I thought Attorney General Eric Holder would have his toughest test yet. He would now be in front of the committee that Darrell Issa chairs - the House Oversight Committee. In every Fast and Furious hearing Issa had been involved in, he stood out as the top bulldog, the fieriest and most knowledgable about the case. On February 2nd, he had the gavel and much more evidence with which to go directly at Holder.As I watched the hearing, I was struck by how tame Issa was compared to previous hearings. There were congressmen on the committee who went at Holder hard - Gowdy, Meehan, Buerkle, and Labrador to name a few - but Issa was conspicuously soft. I thought, "Why?" This was the guy who had all of the goods, collectively. He could have personally delivered a mortal blow to Holder's tenure; he might have even exposed a White House connection. Instead, he seemed to put his gloves down.Mike Vanderboegh, the guy who broke the Fast and Furious story originally before CBS' Sharyl Attkisson picked it up and gave it a much wider audience, seems to be pretty convinced that the fix is in and that House Speaker John Boehner is behind it.The Obama administration is, by far, the most corrupt in the history of the United States. It has put the Republic in serious danger. If there was a White House connection to Fast and Furious, Boehner COULD have gone down in history as the man willing to do the right thing by leading the effort to expose it, by truly unleashing Issa and standing with him.Instead, if these reports are true, he has decided to allow the dismantling of America continue.Read the full story here.
- Russian officials plan to meet Assad as U.N. clash over Syria continues.(AlArabiya).Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit to Syria on Tuesday to meet President Bashar al-Assad, Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in Munich on Saturday, as Russia and Western states clash over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution on the violence in Syria.“On the order of the Russian president, myself and Mikhail Fradkov will visit Damascus on February 7 for a meeting with Bashar al-Assad,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference Saturday.Lavrov, who said President Dmitry Medvedev had instructed him and Fradkov to make the trip, gave no details about its specific purpose, the reports said. The statement came as Russia and Western states clash over a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would support an Arab League plan calling for Assad to cede power.Arab and Western countries have rejected a new draft amended by Russia. The draft dropped callas to condemn “arbitrary executions, killing and persecution of protestors and members of the media, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, interference with access to medical treatment, torture, sexual violence, and ill-treatment, including against children.”It also conditioned the pull out of all Syrian military and armed forces from cities and towns with “the end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions and cities and towns.”A major Russian amendment urged U.N. member states to use their influence to prevent continued violence by armed groups. Al Arabiya correspondent from the United Nations reported that Arab and Western states rejected the Russian amendments.“They [Russians] attempted all through the draft to equate between the victim and the aggressor, which is unacceptable to the Arabs and the Europeans alike,” Talal Alhaj said.“My sources are assuring me that these amendments have been refused by the Europeans and Arabs alike. This refusal will of course and most likely lead to a Russian veto, double veto with China.”Read the full story here.
- GOP lawmaker walked out on Obama's speech at National Prayer Breakfast.(TheHill).By Jonathan Easley.Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.) walked out of President Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, his spokeswoman confirmed to The Hill.Jen Talaber said the five-term lawmaker "left quietly" in the middle of the president's remarks.“He was disturbed and offended by the president’s use of prayer and reflection time for partisan politics and class warfare,” Talaber said. “Rep. Gingrey enjoyed listening to the keynote speaker and found the breakfast to be inspiring until President Obama began politicking.”At the breakfast, Obama tried to tie some of the proposals from his State of the Union address, such as everyone paying their fair share in taxes, to Biblical teachings.Talaber said Gingrey listened to several minutes of the speech before he “slipped out” because he found the perceived politicking “inappropriate.”“There are 364 other days a year in which to do that,” she said. “While he commends the president for his attendance, Rep. Gingrey wanted to hear what was in his heart and not campaign rhetoric. He was disappointed that the president seemed to be unaware of the reason so many gathered there today.”Read the full story here.
- GOP's Hatch: Someone should remind Obama he's not Jesus Christ.(TheHill).By Josiah Ryan.Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Thursday evening said President Obama needs a reminder that he is not Jesus Christ."In 2008, the president declared that his nomination was the world historical moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal," Hatch said in a speech from the Senate floor. "Someone needs to remind the president that there was only one person who walked on water and he did not occupy the Oval Office."Hatch skewered the president for a remark he made at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning, during which he suggested Jesus might support his plan to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.“For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that 'for unto to whom much is given, much shall be required,'" Obama said at the breakfast. Hatch, who is a devout Mormon, suggested Obama was trying to "assume the role of theologian in chief" and said he ought to stick to public policy."[Obama] suggested to the attendees that Jesus would have supported his latest tax-the-rich schemes," Hatch said. "With due respect to the president, he ought to stick to public policy. I think most Americans would agree that the gospels are concerned with weightier matters than effective tax rates.”Hatch said Obama does not even live up to the example set by two former presidents he claims to admire, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln."At some moments in our nation's history, at moments of crises, leaders have emerged, put partisanship aside and worked to solve our greatest challenges, though our current president, who's compared himself to both Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, his leadership is falling well short of their examples," Hatch said.Read the full story here.
- Federal Court Forces EPA to Enforce Rules Agency Believes Are Faulty.(BigGovernment).President Obama’s EPA usually has a bad habit of kicking American industry when it’s down by dumping on them with unnecessary regulations, regardless of what business leaders say the effects will be.Usually. Which is why the latest fiasco over the Agency’s proposed Boiler MACT rule is so noteworthy.After writing new rules in mid-2011 that would require electricity-generating boilers to meet a shockingly high emissions standard – at a capital cost of $9.5 billion – a wide swath of industries, most notably the paper and wood business, pushed back. EPA was set to impose the rules anyway, risking hundreds of thousands of jobs, sky-high costs, and electrical production capacity.Yet shockingly, EPA suddenly changed its mind in December, apparently having listened to the industries’ criticisms and deciding to stay any formal enactment of the proposed rules. EPA wanted more time to study the potential effects and revise the regulations.But of course, the environmentalist left wouldn’t have that. From the PJ Tatler:In December 2011, though, the EPA changed course and decided to delay implementing the rule. It actually appeared to be taking industry concerns into account, for once. The Sierra Club and others had filed suit to force the EPA to stick to its original timeline. The federal court in Washington, DC heard the case and sided with the Sierra Club in January. So now, the EPA is being forced by a judge to implement a rule that the EPA itself has acknowledged is problematic and requires more study.The minute the EPA actually listens to industries’ concerns and decides it wants a more balanced approach, they get stuck with a federal court ruling requiring them to enforce the original rules they have already acknowledged are faulty.Luckily, in order for sanity to prevail, Republicans are pushing legislation that will shield the EPA from the court’s ruling and give it the time it needs to draft new rules that lessen the burden on industry. The legislation, titled the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, has been bouncing around Congress. The House has already passed the bill as part of the payroll tax cut package passed in December. It’s the Senate’s turn now.Even the EPA itself admits that too much is at stake.Read the full story here.
- US anxiety grows over possible Israeli plans on Iran, Israeli strike would have implications for US election.(Jpost).The Obama administration is increasingly anxious about Israeli leaders' provocative public comments on Iran's nuclear program but does not have hard proof that Jerusalem will strike Iran in the next few months, US and European officials said.The US uncertainty and lack of information about Israel's plans on Iran were behind an alarming assessment of the situation reportedly voiced by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the officials said.David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist who specializes in intelligence matters, reported that Panetta believed there was a "strong likelihood" that Israel would attack Iran's nuclear program within the next six months -- as early as April, Ignatius wrote.Three US officials who follow the issue said their understanding was that the United States did not have concrete intelligence suggesting an attack by Israel on Iran in that time frame was likely or actively being prepared.The current US assessment is that for months Jerusalem had been making contingency plans and tentative preparations both for such an operation and for possible Iranian retaliation, two of the officials said."If Israel has a good military option, they just take it, they don't talk about it, they don't give warnings," said Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. "So the fact that they are talking about it, to me, is one tip-off that they don't have a good military option".Many, if not most, Western experts believe it would take Iran at least a year to build a weapon once leaders decided to go ahead. But some Israel leaders and experts believe that an attack would have to be launched earlier if Iran's nuclear effort is to be set back seriously. Barak has warned that Iran's nuclear research could soon pass into what he called a "zone of immunity," protected from outside disruption.Barak was recently quoted telling the Herzliya Conference, "Later is too late," one of the US officials noted. The official said that US policymakers had to be concerned about the possibility of an early Israeli attack "given that Barak and Netanyahu seem so determined to do it."But Panetta's alleged remarks and other Obama administration's statements indicate the White House is focused on dissuading Israel from taking action - and distancing itself from an Israel strike if persuasion fails.A strike on Iran and Iran's response, including attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz, which is vital for oil shipments, could seriously harm the US economy, jeopardizing US President Barack Obama's chances for re-election. Obama also would likely come under intense domestic pressure to back Israel's actions."The US is not too excited about engaging with Israel or being part of anything at this point," one official said."Israel is, practically speaking, the wild card in the pack," the analyst said. "We have no specific information on when or if they will attack but based on their past history and current stance, it is something we do expect at some point."Hmmmm......Is it right to jeopardise the lives of 7.6 million Israelis for reelection reasons?Read the full story here.
- Iran begins month long naval exercises near Gulf strait.(AlArabiya).Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard began naval maneuvers Saturday in the latest show of force near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the critical Gulf oil tanker route that Tehran has threatened to close in retaliation for tougher Western sanctions.Plans for new Iranian war games in the Gulf have been in the works for weeks. But they got under way following stern warnings by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about any possible U.S. or Israeli attacks against Tehran's nuclear facilities.The month-long maneuvers also come after Western forces boosted their naval presence in the Gulf led by the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.Iran has so far made no attempts to disrupt shipping through the strait, the route for one-fifth the world's crude oil. The U.S. and allies have said they would respond swiftly to any attempts at a blockade.Last month, Iran’s navy wrapped up 10 days of exercises in the Gulf, but the Revolutionary Guard - which is directly under control of the supreme leader - represents a significantly stronger military force and controls key programs such as missile development. Iranian state media announced the new maneuvers, but gave no further details.Khamenei, in a speech nationally broadcast on Friday, staked out a hard line after suggestions by Israel that military strikes are an increasing possibility if sanctions fail to rein in the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.He pledged to aid any nation or group that challenges Israel and said any military strikes would damage U.S. interests in the Middle East “10 times” more than they would hurt Iran. The comments also may signal that Tehran’s proxy forces - led by Lebanon’s Islamic militant group Hezbollah - could be given the green light to revive attacks on Israel as the showdown between the archfoes intensifies.Read the full story here.
- Video - Syrians storm their embassies in Egypt, Kuwait and rally in UK, U.S and Germany.(AlArabiya).A crowd of Syrians stormed the Syrian embassy in Cairo smashing furniture and equipment and setting fire to parts of the building in protest over the latest bloodshed in the country, an embassy official and a witness said on Saturday.Rallies also broke out outside Syrian embassies in Britain, Germany and the United States after human rights activists reported more than 300 people were killed in shelling by government forces in the city of Homs.In Cairo, embassy official Ammar Mohamed said he had been told by security officials about the overnight attack and arrived at the site to assess the damage. The scene was calm by early morning and Egyptian police were guarding the embassy.It was the second such attack on the mission. The embassy was broken into last week in another demonstration against President Bashar al-Assad who has turned his army against demonstrators seeking an end to his rule.Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered at a police station a few streets from the Cairo embassy to demand the release of as many as 11 Syrians and an Egyptian who they said were detained during the protest at the mission.“God you are so strong, help us secure victory over Bashar,” chanted protesters outside the Cairo police station where they said the detainees from the demonstration were taken.The gate of the embassy in central Cairo was broken and furniture and computers were smashed on the second floor of the building, a Reuters witness said, viewing the site after the attack. Parts of the first floor were burned, he said.In Kuwait, witnesses say demonstrators have stormed into the Syrian Embassy compound in the Gulf state, breaking windows and hoisting the flag of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.Meanwhile, five men were arrested Saturday after gaining entry to the Syrian embassy in London, police said, as protesters demonstrated outside the building.Around 150 protesters gathered outside the plush property in Belgrave Square, one of central London's finest squares, which houses a string of embassies.A Scotland Yard spokesman said the arrests were for public order offences after the demonstration broke out at around 2:00am (0200 GMT).The spokesman said “appropriate policing” was now in place.Read the full story here.
- Freezing Europe hit by Russian gas shortage,Russia admits brief cut of gas supplies to Europe.(BBC).Freezing weather sweeping across Europe has led to a shortage of vital Russian gas supplies to several countries, officials say.An EU energy spokeswoman said eight countries had seen a reduction in gas due to increased demand in Russia. She said the situation was not an emergency but was being monitored.The cold snap is being blamed for scores of deaths in eastern Europe where temperatures have plunged to below -35C.Freezing temperatures have spread to Italy and France, and the UK is also on alert for snowfall over the weekend."I can confirm that there has been a decrease in gas deliveries in various member states - Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy," EU spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said."It's not a situation of emergency yet," she added.Correspondents say the sudden drop in Russian gas supplies - which pass through Ukraine - is raising fears of a repeat of a crisis in 2009 when tension between Moscow and Kiev cut supplies to parts of Europe for about two weeks.Russia's state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant acknowledged for the first time Saturday that it had briefly reduced gas supplies to Europe amid a spell of extreme cold. Gazprom deputy chief Andrey Kruglov reported to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that the cuts lasted for several days and reached up to 10 percent, but supplies are currently back to normal. Officials in Austria and France, however, have reported cuts of as much as 30 percent, and Italy said supplies were down by 24 percent Thursday. Russia previously had blamed Ukraine for the shortages, saying Kiev is siphoning off more than its share. Authorities in Ukraine have denied the accusations.Putin ordered Gazprom to try to meet an increased demand for the Russian gas in Europe, but added that the company's priority should be to satisfy the local demand.Read the full story here and here.
- Congress Calls for Accelerated Use of Drones in U.S.(BLN).Source: Secrecy News. A House-Senate conference report this week called on the Administration to accelerate the use of civilian unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or “drones,” in U.S. airspace.The pending authorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration directs the Secretary of Transporation to develop within nine months “a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”“The plan… shall provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.”The conference bill, which still awaits final passage, also calls for establishment of UAS test ranges in cooperation with NASA and the Department of Defense, expanded use of UAS in the Arctic region, development of guidance for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems, and new safety research to assess the risk of “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”The Department of Defense is pursuing its own domestic UAS activities for training purposes and “domestic operations,” according to a 2007 DoD-FAA memorandum of agreement. (“Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace,” Secrecy News, January 19, 2012.)Read the full story here.
- Al Arabiya documentary sheds light on Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination.(AlArabiya).On Feb. 14, 2005, more than one ton of explosives claimed the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 22 of his companions and innocent passers-by. From that point onwards, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been conducting a series of investigations to determine the identity of the assassins. This was accompanied by a strong upheaval in Lebanon as well as in the entire region. Lebanon suffered a sharp division between the March 14 bloc, headed by The Future Movement under the leadership of Hariri’s son Saad al-Hariri and his allies, on one hand and the March 8 bloc headed by Hassan Nasrallah and his allies on the other. This division reached its peak when the balance of power tipped in favor of Hezbollah and its allies Iran and Syria. But the investigations continued until Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare accused four Hezbollah senior officials of taking part in the assassination.“In Search for Hariri’s Murderers” is a three-part documentary screened on Al Arabiya on Friday. The second and third parts will be shown on Thursday Feb. 9 and Friday Feb.10, respectively.The film recounts the details of the investigation from 2005 till the present against the backdrop of the complicated political and regional circumstances in which they have been taking place.Former deputy representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Lebanon the late Kamal Medhat gave a special interview to the film about his experience with the Nahr al-Bared battle before he himself was killed during the events.Read and see the full story here.
Friday, February 3, 2012
Arrested Turkish journalist Ragıp Zarakolu nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.(HurriyetDaily).By Vercihan Ziflioğlu.Members from the Swedish Parliament nominate imprisoned Turkish publisher and human rights defender Ragıp Zarakolu for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination comes amid a debate over the prize’s criteria.Turkey’s prisons abound with writers, intellectuals and academics, a direct contradiction to the country’s desire to become a model for the Middle East, said Swedish Parliamentarian Armineh Kakabaveh, who recently nominated arrested journalist Ragıp Zarakolu for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I am greatly honored to nominate Zarakolu for this prize. I hope the Nobel Committee accepts Zarakolu’s candidacy,” said Kakabaveh, one of five Swedish deputies who recently filed a formal appeal with the Norwegian Nobel Committee to nominate Zarakolu, a Turkish writer, journalist and publisher who has remained behind bars since Nov. 1, 2011, on terrorism-related charges.
“As far as we know, no one has had access yet to the [indictment] file, including Ragıp’s lawyer. He [has remained] behind bars for more than three months already. What kind of rule of law is this? Turkey should free Zarakolu and all the journalists, writers and intellectuals who have not advocated violence,” said Bjorn Smith-Simeonsen, the head of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Geneva-based International Publishing Association (IPA), which has vigorously campaigned for Zarakolu’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.IPA called for the immediate release of Zarakolu. "Ragıp Zarakolu is the pride of publishing. He is the limelight of freedom to publish in Turkey. (...) This man does not belong to prison, he deserves a Nobel Prize.", Bjorn Smith-Simonsen, Chair of IPA's Freedom to Publish Committee (FTPC), said. "The trial is likely to begin in a year's time only. Ragıp Zarakolu's health is not good. We fear that he will not stand his detention conditions in the terrible F-type (high security) prisons. This is an additional reason for the Turkish authorities to show compassion and release him immediately", the IPA urged.
PEN International described Zarakolu in their announcement as a person whose name is being "respected internationally in the struggle for freedom of writing and publishing".Publisher Ragip Zarakolu, recipient of the 2008 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize, was arrested on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Istanbul. The 14th High Criminal Court in Besiktas, Istanbul decided earlier today, following a 28-hour long hearing, to incarcerate the man whom many view as Turkey’s most prominent freedom of expression and minority rights activist. In particular, he is being accused of being a member of an illegal organisation under the anti-terror legislation. IPA considers his imprisonment to be in violation of Turkey’s international treaty obligations. IPA therefore demands that he be released immediately.Read the full story here and here.
One Group’s Strategy to Derail Oil Pipelines, Raise Energy Prices.(Heritage).
Details of a large non-profit’s plans to combat the Keystone XL pipeline have surfaced, and offer some insight into the strategies and tactics of groups looking to combat the use of fossil fuels.
Canadian news channel Sun News uncovered of a PowerPoint presentation from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund detailing its work with other groups to derail the Keystone XL pipeline and other similar projects it deemed parts of “a globally significant threat.”
The presentation, written in 2008, describes the allocation of $7 million to environmental non-profits for tactics that include the use of the legislative and legal systems to delay or derail energy production in the United States and Canada, and to “raise the costs” of energy in both nations.
Here is that presentation in full.
Dempsey Told Israelis U.S. Won't Join Their War on Iran.(IPSNews).By Gareth Porter.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.
Dempsey's warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran. But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in U.S. politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this fall. Obama still appears reluctant to break publicly and explicitly with Israel over its threat of military aggression against Iran, even in the absence of evidence Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. Dempsey's trip was highly unusual, in that there was neither a press conference by the chairman nor any public statement by either side about the substance of his meetings with Israeli leaders. Even more remarkable, no leak about what he said to the Israelis has appeared in either U.S. or Israeli news media, indicating that both sides have regarded what Dempsey said as extremely sensitive.
The substance of Dempsey's warning to the Israelis has become known, however, to active and retired senior flag officers with connections to the JCS, according to a military source who got it from those officers.Hmmmm.....War would have a devastating effect on the economy thus bring his reelection in danger.His own reelection primes above the lives of approximatly 7,6 Million Israeli citizens.Read the full story here.
Barack Obama says the drone attacks he authorises are targetted only at named people on a list of active terrorists who are a direct threat to America.
MFS:"The reason i posted the Video is to accentuate the following post" from Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.
"Now, US policy, with its frantic search for a deal with the Taliban, is about to complete another orbit. Indeed, the Qatar-based negotiations highlight why the US political leadership has deliberately refrained from decapitating the Taliban. The US military has had ample opportunities (and still has) to eliminate the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, often called the Quetta Shura because it relocated to that Pakistani city.
Yet, tellingly, the US has not carried out a single drone, air, or ground strike in or around Quetta. All of the US strikes have occurred farther north, in Pakistan’s tribal Waziristan region, although the leadership of the Afghan Taliban and of its allied groups, like the Haqqani network and the Hekmatyar band, is not holed up there. Source : No Escape from Empire’s Graveyard.
- Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Vanuatu 6.0 - 5.7 - 5.6 - 5.4 ; Papua new Guinea 5.1 !More info here.
- Obama Underestimated 2012 Deficit by About Half a Trillion Dollars.(WS).In President Obama’s first budget, entitled (with no apparent sense of irony) “A New Era of Responsibility,” he projected that the federal budget deficit in 2012 would be a rather hefty $581 billion (see summary table S-1). Fast-forwarding three years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now projects that it will instead be $1.079 trillion, meaning that, if the CBO is right, Obama was wrong by $498,000,000,000. To put that into perspective, that roughly half-trillion dollar margin of error is more than Obama allocated is this year’s budget for Medicare (see table S-3). Medicare could magically have become free for 2012, and the deficit would still have exceeded Obama’s earlier estimate.Deficit spending under Obama has truly been historic. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal rightly observes that “Mr. Obama has the worst fiscal record of any President in modern times. No one else is even close.” However, even this is somewhat generous. When you factor in the context — we’re not currently fighting the Civil War, World War I, or World War II, which are the only other times that our deficits have exceeded 6.0 percent of GDP (as they have every year under Obama) — the deficits on Obama’s watch are by far the most profligate in all of American history.Hmmmm.....An American debt to last?Read the full story here.
- Is Iran about to test a Nuclear weapon?(AstuteBloggers).By ReliaPundit). Khamenei then claimed the current century as the century of Islam and promised that human history is on the verge of a great event and that soon the world will realize the power of Allah.IMHO: THE ONLY THING THAT THIS COULD BE IS EITHER A TEST OF A NUKE OR THE USE OF A NUKE.Hmmm.....Last year the Former mossad chief warned of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon in 2012.And The maximum of 3,000 centrifuges that Fodow can contain will never produce enough to supply the fuel needed for a nuclear reactor.However, their performance is perfect for making nuclear bombs.So i wouldn't be surprised.Read the full story here.
- "Commander-In-Chief" quotes Jesus, but army Silenced Chaplains Last Sunday.(NR).In Catholic churches across the country, parishioners were read letters from the pulpit this weekend from bishops in their diocese about the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services giving Catholics a year before they’ll be required to start violating their consciences on insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But not in the Army. A statement released this afternoon — which happens to be the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Dorchester, on which four chaplains lost their lives – from the Archdiocese for Military Services explains: On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit. The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.So not only were chaplains told not to read the letter, but an Obama administration official edited a pastoral letter . . . with church buy-in?Hmmmm.....Didn’t people flee across an ocean-sized pond to be free of this kind of thing?Read the full story here.
- Obama hides from the press.(DailyMail).By Don Surber.The only president to ever need a teleprompter to handle a press conference — so his staff could feed him the answers — held his last prime-time press conference in July 2009, which ended in disaster when he said the police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “acted stupidly” in arresting his friend Henry Louis Gates.The New York Times broke the unwritten code among journalists that you never, ever complain about mistreatment from Barack Obama.President Obama has bubble-wrapped himself in the White House. His press staff reflects his attitude of disdain toward the press, as Brian Stetler noted: Daniel Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, responded in an e-mail, “The idea that interacting with the public through social media is somehow going around the White House press corps is a prehistoric notion.”“The media has become so diffuse that communicating ones’ message requires a lot more work than it used to,” he wrote. “You have to be willing to go where the viewers are, because they now have so much choice in where they get their information.”Bizarre. The imperial presidency rises. No one in that “prehistoric notion” called the White House Press corps is willing to call Obama out on this. Not even Jake Tapper.And this echoes in corporate chambers as well. From Glenn Reynolds: “I was talking to a CEO last year — an Obama supporter no less — who told me he was amazed at how openly Administration officials threatened to use media demonization if he didn’t play ball. It’s like they’ve got the press in their pocket or something. But now some of those officials have to be thinking that the people they threaten will be around after Obama’s gone, and they’ll remember.”The press and corporate America allow this man to bully them. They deserve scorn.Read the full story here.
- "никто дома" - “Reset” Backfires as Clinton Fails to Reach Foreign Minister Lavrov.(Heritage).On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to reach her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, to discuss the upcoming U.N. Security Council vote on Syria, but there was nobody on the other end of the line.Apparently, it took Secretary Clinton more than 24 hours to get ahold of Lavrov to discuss the United Nations resolution that would force Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to step down within two weeks. Is this what the real “reset” with Russia looks like? If so, the “reset” button needs to be pushed again: The Administration should announce an in-depth Russia policy review.Syria is not the only area where Moscow is bucking the Washington-led coalition that includes our Western European allies and the Sunni Arab states. On Iran, Russia (and China) is as intransigent as it is on Syria.The reason: Russia’s perception that the United States is behind this popular uprising. The Kremlin views democracy-promoting nongovernmental organizations and even private-sector social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as a part of a nefarious U.S. global agenda to spread “managed chaos.” It sounds like a conspiracy theory because it is one. As President Ronald Reagan would say, this is just not so.Peaceful protests against Assad’s dictatorship started last spring and have claimed more than 5,000 lives. Today, as Assad refused to pursue political reforms, the insurrection grew violent. Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, are vying to lead the Syrian Sunni majority to power.Russia’s continued defiance of U.S., Western, and Sunni Arab interests is a clear mark of disregard for the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy. Russia wants to see itself as an independent pole of a “multi-polar” world—but in Syria, this approach is backfiring. Some Russian policymakers understand that. Mikhail Margelov, a Middle East expert who taught Arabic in the KGB Academy and is now the chairman of the Russian Parliament’s upper house International Affairs Committee, said that Moscow has exhausted the arsenal of its means to support Assad. Hopefully, someone in the Kremlin is paying attention.The list of the Obama Administration’s concessions to Russia is long—but they failed to earn cooperation on Syria. They included the cancellation of the “third site” in Poland and the Czech Republic, a ballistic missile defense plan for the protection of Europe and the U.S. homeland. The Administration toned down criticism of democratic norms and human rights violations, as Moscow stepped up its crackdown on peaceful protests in 2011 and manipulated the parliamentary election.The White House pursued a policy of geopolitical neglect in the former Soviet Union and a lack of any tangible response regarding Russia’s strategic nuclear buildup. These concessions emboldened Russia to become even more bellicose and disregardful of U.S. interests.Syria is yet another example of the “reset” policy backfiring. Lavrov’s cold shoulder treatment of the U.S. Secretary of State demonstrates that Moscow considers the Administration weak.Hmmmm......Obama: "All the Choices We've Made Have Been the Right Ones"Read the full story here.
- No Escape from Empire’s Graveyard.(PS).By Brahma Chellaney.NEW DELHI – With the stage set for secret talks in Qatar between the United States and the Taliban, US President Barack Obama’s strategy for a phased exit from war-ravaged Afghanistan is now being couched in nice-sounding terms that hide more than they reveal. In seeking a Faustian bargain with the Taliban, Obama risks repeating US policy mistakes that now haunt regional and international security.Since coming to office, Obama has pursued an Afghan strategy that can be summed up in three words: surge, bribe, and run. The military mission has now entered the “run” part, or what euphemistically is being called the “transition to 2014.”The central objective is to cut a deal with the Taliban so that the US and its NATO partners exit the “graveyard of empires” without losing face. This approach – aimed more at withdrawing forces as soon as possible than at ensuring enduring peace and regional stability – is being dressed up as “reconciliation,” with Qatar, Germany, and the United Kingdom getting lead roles in facilitating a settlement.Yet what stands out is how little the US has learned from the past. In critical respects, it is beginning to repeat its own mistakes, whether by creating or funding new local militias in Afghanistan, or by striving to come to terms with the Taliban. As with the covert war that the US waged in the 1980’s in Afghanistan against Soviet military intervention, so, too, have short-term interests driven US policy in the current overt war.To be sure, any leader must work to extricate his country from a protracted war, so Obama is right to seek an end to this one. But he was not right in laying out his cards in public and emboldening the enemy.Read the full story here.
- Two US tourists 'kidnapped in Egypt's Sinai peninsula'.(BBC).Gunmen in Egypt's Sinai peninsula have kidnapped two American women tourists, Egyptian security sources say.They were travelling in a small bus with three other tourists from St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh when it was stopped by the gunmen.One official told the Reuters news agency that the men wanted a ransom.Bedouins kidnapped 25 Chinese workers in northern Sinai earlier this week, but released them unharmed after a day.They were demanding the release of fellow tribesman who were jailed after the 2004 bomb attack at the resort of Taba that killed 31 people.The Americans were reportedly travelling through the Wadi al-Sual area of Sinai, about 40km (25 miles) from St Catherine's, when a vehicle carrying masked men armed with machine-guns forced the bus to stop.The gunmen took the tourists' money and valuables before grabbing the two women, forcing them into a vehicle and fleeing into the mountains.Their Egyptian tour guide was also kidnapped, AFP news agency said.Read the full story here.
- NATO Will Switch On Its (limited) Missile Shield in May.(Wired).BRUSSELS, Belgium — This is what years of development, revamp and acrimony have yielded: Starting in May, Europe will have the beginning of an operational shield against ballistic missiles, courtesy of NATO.The system will be modest at first, not much more than SM-3 interceptor missiles aboard the U.S.S. Monterrey, a ship enabled with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system and stationed in the Mediterranean. It’ll be aided by an early-warning radar system Turkey’s hosting at its Kurecik base.But together, they form what a senior NATO official told reporters on Wednesday was an “interim capability” to stop incoming missiles — the first, ever, in Europe. NATO will formally announce it in May at its big summit in Chicago, and when defense chiefs meet here on Thursday, they’ll get updated on its progress.There’s a long, long way to go in what the Obama administration calls its “phased adaptive” approach to the Euro missile shield. The SM-3 interceptors aboard the Monterrey — the first of many such ships headed to the Med — can only stop short- to intermediate-range missiles. (NATO would not disclose the exact range for the “interim” shield.) It will take years to add even the entire easternmost parts of the continent to the shield — the “phased” part of “phased adaptive” — as its first ground-based anti-missile missiles, which will be hosted in Romania, won’t be operational until 2015. And the shield won’t be able to stop intercontinental ballistic missiles until 2020, if everything goes according to plan.NATO also wouldn’t discuss how Iran would react to an announcement of an infant missile shield. “It’s aimed at incoming missiles, not a [specific] country,” said the senior NATO official, who would not brief reporters on the record.Hmmmm..........Hurry, hurry there's an election coming?Read the full story here.
- US 'no-fly' list of suspected terrorists doubles in 12 months.(Guardian).Classified log of individuals banned from flying into or within America as they are considered a threat stands at 21,000. The size of the US government's secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the country has more than doubled in the past year.The no-fly list jumped from about 10,000 known or suspected terrorists one year ago to about 21,000, according to government figures. About 500 are US nationals.The flood of new names began after the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner when the US government lowered the standard for putting people on the list and scoured its files for anyone who qualified. "We learned a lot about the watchlisting process and made strong improvements, which continue to this day," said Timothy Healy, director of the Terrorist Screening Centre, which produces the no-fly list.Among the most significant new standard is that a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the list.People considered a broader threat to domestic or international security or who attended a terror training camp are also included, said a US counter-terrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity. As agencies complete the reviews of their files, the pace of growth is expected to slow, the counter-terrorism official said.The American Civil Liberties Union has previously sued the US government on behalf of Americans who believe they are on the no-fly list and have not been able to travel by air for work or to see family."The news that the list is growing tells us that more people's rights are being violated," said Nusrat Choudhury, of the ACLU. "It's a secret list, and the government puts people on it without any explanation. Citizens have been stranded abroad."Read the full story here.
- Note to Congress: Swear Off Phony War Savings, Now and Forever.(Heritage).By Patrick Louis Knudsen.Though the idea has been thoroughly discredited, the President and Members of Congress are still considering a large, thoroughly bogus “savings” option to help cover their profligate spending: They intend to claim war spending that was never going to be spent as “savings”—and then spend it on something else. It is one of the most embarrassingly transparent gimmicks in town, and it should be shunned permanently.The alleged “savings” come from a reduction in estimated projected spending on U.S. activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. But those activities—termed Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)—already are winding down. The projected spending does not exist, and never will exist—and therefore neither do the “savings.”These Twilight Zone savings are only an artifact of the way the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates future spending. As explained yesterday in a blog post by CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf: CBO, in its baseline projections for OCO spending, follows the rules set in law for projecting discretionary spending—that is, it projects appropriations in future years equal to those in the current year, with adjustments for inflation. But that is just a baseline projection; the funding has not yet been provided, and there is no “OCO fund” set aside in the Treasury from which resources can be drawn in future years.That is typically mild CBO-speak for: “You can’t be serious.”But the President and lawmakers are in a bind. They are trapped in several budget crises of their own making, and now need a deus ex machina to escape. The President wants the “savings” to spend on more Keynesian-style economic stimulus. Members of Congress want them for at least two other options: to pay for the “doc fix,” which they have adopted year after year to prevent a sharp plunge in payments to Medicare physicians, or to help finance a bloated transportation bill. But to say it again, these savings do not exist. Therefore, they cannot reduce the deficit, and they cannot offset more spending. End of story.President Obama has attempted this trick before, starting with his first budget, so he could claim large savings by proposing to spend less than those amounts. He used it again in his September “jobs” proposal. Senator Harry M. Reid (D–NV) made the same attempt in last year’s debt limit negotiations proposal, only to see the bogus savings lambasted by principled Members of Congress who can recognize a gimmick.It is bad enough for the President and Congress to claim completely unreal savings. Even worse is when they then turn around and plan to spend them. Enough is enough. Congress and the President should give up the fakery, take the budget seriously, and find budgetary savings that exist in the real world.Read the full story here.
- Disposal of Russian Third Generation Nuclear Subs Suspended.(RN).Russia has decided to suspend the planned disposal of third-generation strategic nuclear submarines currently in service with the Navy, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday.“The most successful projects will undergo two repairs instead of one. The subs' period of service will be extended to 30-35 years instead of the current 25,” Rogozin told journalists.He also said Akula (Typhoon) class submarines will be upgraded and their electronics and armaments replaced every seven years.According to Rogozin, this will help gain time until all eight Borey class strategic submarines are deployed by 2020.The deputy premier also said a naval vessel construction development program for the next 30 years is expected to be worked out soon.Read the full story here.
- Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin:"Russia to Build 6 Submarines Annually".(RN).Russia will start producing six submarines and one aircraft carrier annually starting in 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday.“By 2013, production capacity [at Russian shipyards] will allow us to build six submarines and an aircraft carrier every year,” Rogozin told reporters, adding that the number includes both nuclear and diesel-powered submarines.As a result, the production output will surpass that of the Soviet era when Russia built an average of five submarines annually, he said.Rogozin earlier said the production had been bogged down in the past by a lack of financing, outdated equipment and a shortage of skilled labor.Russia is planning to build eight Borey class strategic submarines and up to 10 Graney class attack subs by 2020.Hmmmm......A cold wind blowing from Mother Russia.Read the full story here.
- Egypt Fumes Over Israel's Energy Plans.(INN).By Gavriel Queenann.Israel has beaten Egypt to the punch in its bid to connect to the European electrical grid, leaving pundits in Cairo gnashing their teeth.Egypt's media went into a frenzy over Israel's plans to build a major electrical plant in Ashdod, in what some pundits in Cairo claim is an attempt to undermine Egypt's plans to export electric energy to Europe.Calling the project Israel's "High Dam," after Egypt’s major Nile dam and electrical power station, the reports note that the project will receive joint European-American funding. The project will both aid Israel in reducing its dependence on gas imports and allow the Jewish state to export electricity to Cyprus and Europe.The Israel Electric Company (IEC) and Greece's DEH Quantum Energy are expected to sign the MOU in a few weeks' time. This will lead to a feasibility study, which will be followed – if all goes well – by ratification of the project by the Israeli and Cypriot governments, in the course of 2012.The cable will be 270 km. long. Another cable will connect Cyprus and Crete, which is part of the Greek electricity grid. An MOU for the longer cable has already been signed between Greece and Cyprus.The closeness of Israel to Cyprus and Greece helped make the High Dam project more feasible, since Israel will be linked to the Cypriot and Greek electricity networks with 53,000 kilometers of connections under the sea to European shores, and is later expected to extend for another 600 kilometers inside European territories.The electricity generated by the High Dam will provide more than 10 European countries with an electric power estimated at 2,000 megawatts and will reach 4,000 megawatts by 2020.Hmmmm.......Another project that 'terrorists will attack.Read the full story here.
- Sharia in Germany?German Politician Blasted for Support of Islamic Law.(Spiegel).Most politicians in Germany have gotten the message: The quickest way to spark a career-damaging controversy is to make a facile comment about Nazis or the Holocaust. Media critics and political opponents are quick to pounce.But that isn't the only way to attract unwanted attention, as Jochen Hartloff, the interior minister of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, found out this week. In an interview with the Berlin tabloid BZ, Hartloff said that Sharia law, in a "modern form," would be acceptable in Germany. In comments published on Friday in the center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, he added that Islamic moral code "is certainly conceivable when it comes to questions pertaining to civil law."Hartloff, a politician from the center-left Social Democrats, made clear that he was referring specifically to family law issues such as divorce settlements and alimony, but also certain instances of contract law in which devout Muslims seek to avoid paying interest. Applying Sharia rules, he said, could help avoid hostility in such cases.Reaction, perhaps predictably, has not been entirely supportive. Jörg-Uwe Hahn, the justice minister in the state of Hesse, lambasted Hartloff, telling the mass-circulation tabloid Bild that "German courts are here responsible for the law. We don't need special Islamic courts." He was seconded by Stephan Mayer, a parliamentarian for the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats. Mayer, a legal expert, demanded Hartloff's resignation. "It is inconceivable that a justice minister fosters such ideas," he told Bild. "There is no room in Germany for Islamic law. The Sharia is barbarous and inhuman in all its forms."Read the full story here.
- Over 650 injured in Egypt clashes.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: Over 650 people have been injured as protesters and police clash in downtown Cairo on Thursday evening, al-Arabiya is reporting. Thousands have gathered on Mohamed Mahmoud street in the center of Egypt’s capital to demand the end to military rule following violence at a football match on Wednesday that left at least 75 dead in Port Said.Medical personnel told Bikyamasr.com that the number “could become even greater, but thank God, no deaths.”Near continuous tear gas continues to rain down upon protesters, who are being pulled from the frontlines by young men on motorcycles and delivered to makeshift field hospitals set up on side streets nearby.Despite the tear gas, spirits remain high among the protesters, led by the fans of Egyptian football club al-Ahly, who were the victims of Wednesday’s violence.Earlier in the evening, the fans and protesters marched to central Cairo, chanting against the military junta and calling for the “execution of the Field Marshal,” in reference to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) chief Hussein Tantawi.“We won’t leave. They will have to kill us,” one protester told Bikyamasr.com, as billowing smoke from the tear gas wafted over the area. Eyes burning, the activist went straight into the mix to assist those in need of help, pulling one man out of the cloud of gas.“It’s all we can do to demand justice,” the activist added.The violence began as the protesters continued to chant against the military and police. Early in the evening, as the sun was setting, security forces began firing tear gas into the crowds, in a failed attempt to disperse the protests.Read the full story here.More here.
- NATO 'ally' Turkey bans French army passage.(HurriyetDaily).French state aircraft and warships are no longer using Turkish airspace and territorial waters after permission requests in three different cases were rejected by the Turkish government, France’s top diplomat in Ankara said, amid the ongoing spat over a French law penalizing the denial of Armenian genocide. “Our requests [for an aircraft and two warships] have been rejected, so we are no longer issuing such requests. We are using alternative routes,” France’s Ambassador to Turkey Laurent Bili told the private news channel CNN Türk in an interview. Bili said the first rejection was to a request for a French military aircraft that wanted to use Turkish airspace on its way to France from Afghanistan. Similarly, two French warships were not allowed to enter Turkish territorial waters recently. Turkey’s move against the French military was part of sanctions imposed against France after the adoption of the law at French Parliament late December last year. Though enough numbers of lawmakers and senators were collected to take the law to the Constitutional Council for possible annulment, Bili’s words revealed the process was not an easy one.Hmmm......When will NATO realise the potential threat that Turkey represents to the organisation?Read the full story here.
- Iran's supreme leader Khamenei promises Iranian people the world will soon be rid of 'cancerous Zionist regime'.(YNet)."The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed," Teheran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.Khamenei addressed thousands of worshipers attending a Tehran University prayer service marking the Fajr celebration.The Iranian Revolution brought freedom and dignity to Iranian people and "destroyed the anti-Islamic regime, and brought Islamic regime instead… Dictatorship was changed to democracy," he said. Khamenei further downplayed the possibility of a United States' strike on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities: "A war would be 10-times deadlier for the Americans… These threats indicate America's weakness and the Americans need to know that the more threats they make, the more they damage themselves."He also dismissed the West's sanctions on Iran, saying that they will not make Iran forfeit its nuclear ambitions: "They said they would impose crippling sanctions to punish us, but the sanctions are good for us – they make us rely on our own talented people." He also reiterated Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, saying that "when the time comes we will execute our warning."Khamenei also addressed the Arab Spring, saying he believed the Palestinians will soon follow the example of the Arab world. He promised that "Iran would assist any country or organization that would fight the Zionist regime, which is now weaker than ever," he said. Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said that Iran has helped Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas in their fights against Israel. The crowd met the statement by chanting "Death to Israel."Read the full story here.
- Children as young as 13 tortured, electrocuted by Syrian forces: rights group.(AlArabiya).Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have detained and tortured children as young as 13 with impunity, opened fire on them and used schools as detentions centers of military barracks, Human Rights Watch reported on Friday.“Children have not been spared the horror of Syria’s crackdown. Syrian security forces have killed, arrested, and tortured children in their homes, their schools, or on the streets. In many cases, security forces have targeted children just as they have targeted adults,” said Lois Whitman, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. A 17-year-old girl from Tal Kalakh, was quoted by the rights group as saying that in May 2011, security forces entered her school and arrested all the boys in her class, after questioning them about the anti-regime slogans painted on the school walls.“About four [officers] jumped over the walls, and the rest came through the main gate. They hit [the boys] with their hands and cursed them. I left school three days after that. I don’t know if [the boys] ever came back,” said Nazih (not her real name).The rights groups reported that children as young as 13 were “held in solitary confinement, severely beaten and electrocuted, burned them with cigarettes, and left to dangle from metal handcuffs for hours at a time, centimeters above the floor.”Read the full story here.
- Iran - Judiciary Chief Raps UN Biased Report on Iran's Human Rights.(Fars).TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani censured UN Special Reporter for Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed for his biased report on Iran. "It is amazing that a rapporteur who is responsible for observing international legal rights has expressed such biased reports about Iran," Ayatollah Larijani said, addressing the third professional conference on human rights, Islam and the West here in Tehran on Thursday. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed of the Maldives, alleged in his 21-page report in October 2011 that rights violations have increased in Iran. The rapporteur had already issues false reports on the status of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he said. It is astonishing that in the West anyone denying the Holocaust is sent to jail but if one insults holy prophets, there is nothing wrong with it, Ayatollah Larijani underscored. Torture has been banned in the Human Rights Declaration but the Americans have tortured prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib jails, Larijani said. There are numerous cases of human rights violations by western countries, the Judiciay chief said. Ahmed Shaheed presented his report on Iran to the UN Human Rights Council based on the allegations made by the western powers and the Islamic Republic opposition parties in exile and without even paying a single visit to the country.Read the full story here.
- Ukraine’s jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko tortured, daughter informs US.(HurriyetDaily).The daughter of Ukraine’s jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said her mother was being abused in prison, as she pleaded with lawmakers to pressure Kiev to release her.Tymoshenko has been “illegally imprisoned, maltreated and humiliated for six months” in prison, and was being subject to “sleep deprivation and intimidation to try and break her,” Eugenia Tymoshenko told lawmakers at a hearing of the European Affairs subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year jail sentence after a court convicted her of abuse of power, which she claimed was a political prosecution by her rival Viktor Yanukovych, who is now the president. Her daughter urged the U.S. government to pressure Yanukovych to free the former leader. Eugenia Tymoshenko said her mother is constantly kept in a lit cell under video surveillance and recently fell unconscious from a “mysterious loss of blood pressure.” Prison authorities have said she merely felt dizzy. A top U.S. lawmaker warned Feb. 1 that relations with the West were at risk over the imprisonment. “It would be difficult if not impossible for Ukraine to deepen relations with the West while Ms Tymoshenko remains behind bars,” said U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the hearing. The top U.S. intelligence official warned that democracy is under siege in Ukraine. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Ukraine is moving toward authoritarian rule under President Viktor Yanukovych.Read the full story here.
- Saudi Mufti, Pope urge caution with social media.(Gulfnews).Manama: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti and Pope Benedict XVI have urged people to "exercise proper discernment in the face of the surfeit of stimuli and data" that they receive on the internet.In Riyadh, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh said people cannot take the social-networking website Twitter as the source of their knowledge if they do not really know who is behind the posted comments."Twitter is used to issue fatwas [religious edicts] without evidence or substantiation," the mufti said. "It is used as a platform to spread lies by some people who seek fame by insulting and denigrating other people," he said in his Friday sermon in Riyadh."People should be well aware of such dangers. The site should not be used to exchange accusations or to misquote people. Muslims should be careful not to be drawn into wrong acts and must instead engage in constructive criticism," he said.In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI had on Tuesday praised the significance of digital communications, but cautioned against potential hazards. In his message for the 46th World Day of Social Communications, he said: "In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. "If we are to recognise and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data we receive."Read the full story here.