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Thursday, July 21, 2011

MFS - The Other News

                        Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity in Japan today: 4.9 ! More info here.
  • Japan : For the most accurate info on the nuclear disaster go to : Paul Langley's Nuclear History Blog.Here.

  • Why is Obama giving Libya to the Russians?(Reuters). By John Bolton The opinions expressed are his own.With President Obama’s Libya policy staggering from one embarrassment to another, last week he and Secretary of State Clinton outdid themselves. They publicly welcomed Russia’s effort to insert itself as a mediator, an act of such strategic myopia that it must leave even Moscow’s leadership speechless.Permanent Security Council members Russia and China abstained on the initial resolution authorizing force to create a Libya no-fly zone and to protect innocent civilians. By not casting a veto, Russia thereby tacitly allowed military action to proceed. As they did, Russia repeatedly second-guessed and harshly criticized NATO’s operations. Now, as a mediator, Russia will, in effect, have the chance to rewrite the Council’s resolution according to its own lights.Given the uncertain trumpet sounded by both Obama and NATO, and the still-inconclusive outcome of the “kinetic military action,” the reputation and credibility of U.S. and NATO, militarily and politically, have been gravely impaired. The President likely doesn’t appreciate these wounds as he leans over backwards not to be seen as the regime-changing unilateralist he imagined his predecessor to be.We should hope that Russia fails. Mediation was never the correct answer here. NATO, once committed, must prevail by force of arms, as it still could with a modest demonstration of American leadership. Make no mistake: Welcoming Russian intercession between NATO and a military opponent like Libya is nothing less than a massive humiliation for the Western alliance. If the Obama Administration’s misguided worldview favors mediation, whatever happened to the likes of Sweden and Switzerland?Not only does Russia now have the possibility of reshaping the Libyan morass to its own ends, it is also well-positioned for a dominant role in post-conflict Libya. From the outset, U.S. critics of the intervention raised legitimate questions about the bona fides of the Libyan opposition, embodied in the Transitional National Council (“TNC”), now recognized by over three dozen countries. Last Friday, the United States joined the crowd, while also unfreezing Libyan assets to make them available to the TNC.But in the last four months neither America nor its NATO allies have successfully identified and strengthened (quietly or otherwise), a truly significant cadre of pro-Western voices in Libya. This failure increasingly risks that an ultimately victorious opposition will simply replace one rogue regime with another. Ousting Gaddafi is manifestly still vital and legitimate, given his defiant threat to return to international terrorism and possibly the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. But it was always only half a strategy, with a concomitant necessity to select and sustain a desirable — or at least acceptable — alternative.Inserting Russia into the middle of the Libyan war gives it an unmistakable advantage in shaping the TNC, and post-Gaddafi Libya more broadly. Moscow (along with Beijing) has a keen interest and now a real possibility to become far more involved in exploiting Libya’s oil and natural gas resources than at present. This opportunity is something Russia could never have achieved on its own. To be handed it by Obama and Clinton, utterly gratuitously, is breathtaking.The Obama Administration’s weakness, exemplified in its Libya miscalculation, is generating close scrutiny in Russia and in the wider world. Sadly, America’s European friends are also exhibiting a profound fatigue and weakness in Libya and beyond. Some speculated, for example, that France, cozying up to Moscow, welcomed Russia’s mediation in order to foil Germany’s efforts to make itself Russia’s principal Western European partner.How troubling and dangerous it is to see NATO members drifting toward Russia after largely waging and winning the Cold War in Europe precisely to keep it out of Moscow’s clutches. Now some are not only apparently seeking Moscow’s embrace, but the Obama Administration, in cases like Libya, is actively abetting Russia’s efforts.The Kremlin will rightly see Obama’s welcoming of its Libya mediation ploy as yet another telling sign of American weakness and retreat. Similarly, America’s other international adversaries will take Obama’s mistake as opening even more opportunities for them that should deeply concern us. These adversaries, like Iran and North Korea, will perceive even less concern about U.S. efforts to constrain their nuclear and ballistic missile programs, thus accelerating the ongoing risk of even broader proliferation.Political commentators routinely opine that Americans are not interested in national security issues. But if confronted with the dangers of a further sixteen months of Obama, compounded enormously by the prospect of four additional years, Americans should be far more sensible than the prognosticators give them credit for.Hmmmm......If he really wanted to destroy America would he do anything different?Read the full story here.

  • Greek Rescue Plan May Allow for Default on Some Debt.(NYTimes).BRUSSELS — After weeks of uncertainty that revived fears about the foundations of the euro, European leaders were close Thursday to clinching a new rescue plan for Greece that could push the country into default on some of its debt for a short period but that would also give Europe’s bailout fund sweeping new powers to shore up struggling economies. According to drafts of a statement that was being discussed into the evening by the 17 euro zone heads of government, banks have agreed to take part in several programs to reduce Greece’s debt, including plans that would mean exchanging existing bonds for new bonds with lower interest rates and longer maturities. The outlines of the plan seemed particularly bold, dealing with the economic problems of bailed-out Ireland and Portugal as well as Greece, and calling for nothing short of a “European Marshall Plan” to get Greece itself on a road to recovery. The underlying economies of those countries — and others — remain remarkably frail, however, and the plan itself had many hurdles to overcome.On the central issue of extending debt, rating agencies have already issued strong warnings that such steps might constitute a limited form of default because creditors would not be repaid in full on the original terms. The negotiations came after days of conflict among Europe’s leaders over how to keep the debt crisis from engulfing the much-larger economies of Italy and Spain. Any contagion would not only pose a potent threat to the euro — the most important symbol of the European integration — but could destabilize the entire global financial system. According to the draft declaration, euro zone leaders were set to agree on a remarkable shift of direction. A series of measures to lighten the burden on Greece, Ireland and Portugal represents a recognition that the mountain of debt hanging over them threatens to stifle any prospect of recovery. The draft calls for a “comprehensive strategy for growth and investment in Greece,” including the release of European Union development funds to finance infrastructure projects. More significant, the euro zone leaders were also being asked to give wide-ranging new powers to the bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility by allowing it to buy government bonds on the secondary market and to help recapitalize banks where necessary. That would effectively turn it into a prototype European version of the International Monetary Fund. Under the draft proposals, the bailout fund would even be able to help shore up countries that had not requested a rescue. Diplomats said that going forward with the proposals would require a change in the fund’s rules, which in turn would require approval by national parliaments. On the eve of the summit meeting, a statement from the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said they had “listened” to the views of the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, who flew in from Frankfurt unexpectedly to join them in Berlin. Though the statement from Mr. Sarkozy and Mrs. Merkel did not say whether they had settled the issue of allowing Greece to write down some of its debt — something Mr. Trichet has argued against publicly and adamantly — suggestions before the summit meeting in Brussels were that the E.C.B. had softened its stance. “The demand to prevent a selective default has been removed,” the Dutch finance minister, Jan Kees de Jager, told Parliament in The Hague, Reuters reported.Hmmmm.......One word "Eurobonds"?Read the full story here.

  • House Panel Moves Bill Forward Seeking To Block U.S. Aid To Islamic Countries Unless They Cooperate With War On Terror, Cut U.N. Funding.(AP)WASHINGTON — A House panel on Wednesday pushed ahead on a bill to block U.S. assistance to Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority unless the Obama administration reassures Congress that they are cooperating in the war on terrorism.The Republican-drafted measure was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama as members of the GOP majority sought to limit his foreign policy authority, slash U.S. contributions to international organizations and reverse policies on abortion. Overall, the bill would cut $6.4 billion from Obama’s request of $51 billion for the State Department and foreign operations in the next budget.Frustrated with Pakistan’s effort in the terror war, the bill would bar civilian and security aid to Islamabad unless the secretary of state can certify to Congress that it is pursuing terrorists and helping the U.S. investigate how Osama bin Laden managed to live unscathed deep inside Pakistan.The panel also voted 23-17 to cut the U.S. contribution to the United Nations by 25 percent.The U.S. is the largest single contributor to the U.N., responsible for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget and 27 percent of the money for peacekeeping operations. The Obama administration is seeking $3.54 billion for the United Nations and other international agencies, and peacekeeping efforts in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.Under the sweeping bill, aid to the Palestinian Authority would be contingent on the secretary certifying that no member of Hamas or any other terrorist organization was serving in a policy position. The two rival Palestinian leaderships — the secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas — reconciled and are trying to form a new government. Israel and the U.S. both consider Hamas a terrorist organization.The Obama administration has requested some $550 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority.Assistance for Egypt would be based on whether its new government “is not directly or indirectly controlled by a foreign terrorist organization.” The bill would also direct the administration to reassure Congress that Egypt is searching out and destroying any smuggling network and tunnels between the country and the Gaza strip.Israeli and American officials fear that Hamas is moving weapons and militants into the Palestinian territory through tunnels along the Gaza border.Aid to Lebanon would be contingent on the secretary certifying to Congress that no member of Hezbollah is in a policy position. In fact, members of the group are part of the government.Aid to Yemen would be based on the administration reassuring Congress that no terrorist organization is part of the government.Hmmmm........Hear,Hear!Read the full story here.

  • Obama's Muslim Outreach: Epic Failure.(Aina).When Barack Obama took over the Oval Office from George W. Bush in 2009, he was riding the crest of a tidal wave of gullibility among his supporters, who believed him to be the Chosen One bringing salvation and deliverance from the wasteland of the Bush years. In their fevered imagination, the inept, moronic, old-fashioned cowboy Bush had disastrously bungled his terms in office and caused the world to hate us. Now the multicultural, transnational, post-American demigod Obama had arrived, a deus ex machina from the heavens, offering hope and change to all. He was going to get the world to like us, really like us again.But this self-delusional, media-assisted narrative has a tragicomic twist: two and a half years into his term, Obama not only hasn't healed the oceans, harmonized the races, boosted the economy, or repaired our supposedly tattered reputation abroad, he has actually exacerbated all those issues. And now it's confirmed that he hasn't been any more successful at resolving the clash of civilizations either."My job to the Muslim world," Obama said in his very first interview as President, for the Arabic-language network Al-Arabiya, "is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy." In that case, to quote from Cool Hand Luke, what we've got here is a failure to communicate. According to a stunning new poll of six Arab nations -- Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia -- by the nonpartisan Arab American Institute, the United States is viewed even less favorably in the Arab world today than it was during the final year of Bush's administration.Obama himself is even less popular in the region than apocalyptic Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In fact, the policies of Iran are actually viewed more favorably by the polled countries than those of the U.S. So much for any strategy of enlisting the region's support in isolating the Iranian regime. Ten percent or less of Arabs in all the countries surveyed agree with the policies pursued by President Obama. His ratings are by far the lowest of the other world leaders listed in the survey, which include France's Sarkozy, Iran's Ahmadinejad, even Turkey's raging Islamist Erdogan. Interestingly, the two issues on which the Obama administration has expended considerable energy --"engagement with the Muslim world" and "the Palestinian issue"-- have garnered the lowest approval ratings: less than 9%. Despite Obama's assurances that Islamic extremism would dissipate once the people of the Arab world achieve economic equality, that issue is last on the Arabs' list of concerns (apart from "Iran's interference in Arab affairs"). They consider the two greatest threats to peace and stability in the Middle East to be "U.S. interference in Arab affairs" and, unsurprisingly, the mythical "continuing occupation of Palestinian lands." This latter issue ranks highest in importance to the Arab respondents, and widespread disillusionment in the region has resulted from Obama's failure to make progress on it -- presumably because that pesky Israel hasn't yet been wiped from the map.Where did the Chosen One go wrong? According to the poll, attitudes toward Obama and the United States as a whole have been growing increasingly negative over the past ten years due to: the American occupation of Iraq, which Obama promised to end but has not; outrage over Guantanamo Bay, which Obama promised to close but has not; continued frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Obama assumed he could solve but has not; and (to a far lesser degree) his own recent military involvement in LibyaIn essence, Obama's outreach to Arab hearts and minds has been, as the pop culture expression goes, an "epic fail." Pollster James Zogby describes that failure simply: "It's because expectations were created that were not met." Unmet Expectations -- that Dickensian-sounding title neatly sums up the story of Obama's entire presidency thus far, whether viewed from the Arab world or here at home.Hmmmm......."You can't fool all the people, all of the time"?Read the full story here.

  • Twitter Kills the Most Important State Level Conservative Group in the Country.(RedState).I have long considered Empower Texans to be the most important and effective state level conservative grassroots organization in the country. These people are not just respected in Texas; they are feared. It is an awesome thing to behold.Michael Quinn Sullivan and company do excellent work educating Texans on the men who go to Austin claiming to be conservatives only to turn left out of the eyes of their constituents.And they use Twitter as part of their communication strategy. In fact, twitter is a key component of their outreach. Or at least it was.Today, Twitter not only shut down the Empower Texans twitter feed, but it also shut down the twitter feeds of every individual who works for Empower Texans.Twitter is a private organization. It can do what it wants. But I am very troubled that it did so without explanation and without anyone for Empower Texans to contact.If this was an orchestrated effort on the part of others to flag Empower Texans as a spam account such that Twitter’s computer system would automatically can it, Twitter has a serious security problem.If it was a man made decision, Twitter has even bigger problems.Hmmmm.......Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo was named to Obama’s presidential advisory committee for security telecommunications.Now i know why i'm also considered 'spam' on Twitter.Read the full story here.

  • Homeland Security:" Violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions". New Terror Report Warns of Insider Threat to Utilities.(ABCNews).Sabotage by an insider at a major utility facility, including a chemical or oil refinery, could provide al Qaeda with its best opportunity for the kind of massive Sept. 11 anniversary attack Osama bin Laden was planning, according to U.S. officials. A new intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security issued Tuesday, titled Insider Threat to Utilities, warns "violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions," and that "outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees" for damaging physical and cyber attacks. "Based on the reliable reporting of previous incidents, we have high confidence in our judgment that insiders and their actions pose a significant threat to the infrastructure and information systems of U.S. facilities," the bulletin reads in part. "Past events and reporting also provide high confidence in our judgment that insider information on sites, infrastructure, networks, and personnel is valuable to our adversaries and may increase the impact of any attack on the utilities infrastructure." U.S. officials were stunned last year in Yemen with the arrest of an alleged American recruit to al Qaeda, Sharif Mobley, of New Jersey, who had been employed as five different U.S. nuclear power plants in and around Pennsylvania after successfully passing federal background checks."If someone is determined, and has the right access, they could do damage that would affect thousands of lives," Sweet said. Al Qaeda has already put out the word in its online magazine, Inspire, for "brothers of ours who have specialized expertise and those who work in sensitive locations that would offer them unique opportunities to wreak havoc on the enemies of Allah." As evidence of American infrastructure vulnerabilities, the report specifically cites the attempted insider sabotage this April at a water treatment plant in Arizona.Officials said then a disgruntled night shift worker took over the control room and tried to create a giant methane gas explosion. "I am taking the plant hostage," the worker said in a recorded 911 call.Hmmmmm.......Brought to you by 'the Misunderstanders of Islam"?Read the full story here.

  • The 'hottest-selling toy in Kandahar' "Terror chess"the brainchild of CEO and ex-Canadian special forces soldier.(DailyMail). Bin Laden lines up against the President and Twin Towers in Terror Chess, the new smash hit with allied troops in Afghanistan. At first glance it is a tasteless version of chess, where the traditional pieces have been replaced with Osama Bin Laden and U.S. president as respective kings - and the World Trade Center towers as rooks.But 'terror chess' is proving an unexpected hit among the troops at the business end of the fighting in Afghanistan.Several versions of terror chess exist, each modified to appeal to American or British forces, but all games feature Bin Laden as the opposing king. An unidentifiable burkha-clad figure stands next to him as the queen, and the bishops are depicted as Muslim clerics.The knights are suicide bombers strapped with explosives, while the rooks are fighters each toting a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher.Pawns are identical kneeling insurgent footsoldiers.In the U.S. version of the game, the king is the American president - in some cases George Bush and in others Barack Obama - while the Statue of Liberty is the queen.A camouflaged sniper and a standing Special Forces soldier are the bishops and knights respectively, while pawns are kneeling U.S. troops.The most controversial piece of all the sets is the iconic twin towers as the rooks.The chess board is also adapted, with maps of Afghanistan superimposed over the classic chequerboard pattern.The controversial board game is produced by Hobby Leisure Manufacturing and the brainchild of CEO and ex-Canadian special forces soldier, Jeffery Train, 48, from Toronto.He said: 'Soldiers tend not keep keep many mementos from their time in the field. I made these accurately with maps so when the troops return home they can show their families.'They'll be able to say to their kids, "This is the enemy we fought" and point out on the map where they lost their buddies. 'Now these sets are the hottest selling collectibles in Kandahar. Troops from countries like Germany and even Finland and Norway have asked me to make versions for their counties as well.'The British version has Prime Minister David Cameron as king, while the queen is replaced by... the Queen.As in the U.S. version, snipers and commandos are the bishops and knights, while St Stephen's Tower and Big Ben are the rooks. So far Mr Train has sold 1,000 of his terror chess sets from the small German-run 'PX', or postal exchange, where Coalition troops go to buy military accessories such as pouches, knives and flashlights. He donates part of the money raised from the sale of the chess sets towards better food and luxury treats for serving soldiers. He said: 'My heart goes out to all the coalition troops still serving out there. They have to do a dirty job and they get on with it without whining and complaining. 'But if the Taliban did manage to somehow get hold of a set and start playing I'd say to them "More power to you". Maybe Taliban fighters would like a chance not to have to be the bad guys for a change.'Hmmmmm.......Ooooooh Canada!Read the full story here.

  • Canada - Religious groups plan to protest in-school prayer sessions.(TorontoSun).TORONTO - Muslim prayers have no place in a public school.That’s the message the Canadian Hindu Advocacy and the Christian Heritage Party are sending the Toronto District School Board as they prepare to stage a picket outside the board’s Yonge St. head office next week.“Enough’s enough, we draw the line here,” said G.J. Rancourt of CHP London during a press conference on Monday at the Toronto Zionist Centre on Marlee Ave. “Our holiest celebration is Christmas and we can no longer celebrate it in public schools. We don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable but we don’t want you to forget who we are. Why would (Muslims) impose your values on the rest of us when we’re accommodating?”Security guards were at the ready for Islamic protesters at the centre but no one showed up.Members of the Jewish Defence League and from two other Christian ministries are joining the fight against “pseudo-seculars” and to end to the Friday lunchtime prayer sessions in the cafeteria at Valley Park Middle School, on Overlea Blvd., which according to Rancourt, have been going on for at least three years.“Let us be consistent, let us honour the Education Act,” said Rev. Tony Costa of Costa Christian Mission. “Muslims who want to pray can go to their mosques but this should not be done in a publicly and taxpayer-funded school system.”Local imams are brought in to lead a 40-minute service with about 400 students in which the boys sit in front of girls in the lunch room. Girls who are said to be menstruating are told to sit at the very back.Non-Muslims are banned from the room during prayers.The coalition said the Islamic Society of Toronto is behind these prayer ceremonies.“There is a great deal of gender apartheid going on where the women are separated from the men,” said Rob Banerjee of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy. “This is very much against Canadian values.”The service has created controversy among parents and others who claim the public school board should be secular and not have religious programming.TDSB officials, who refused comment, have said the Muslim prayers are conducted in the cafeteria to address security issues stemming from students leaving classes to attend mosque.The men allege some imams who are leading the prayer sessions belong to a local mosque that signed a petition calling for leniency of the Toronto 18 terror group.Meir Weinstein, of the Jewish Defence League Canada, is concerned children will be indoctrinated by radical or fundamental imams who are spreading their views.“If these theories are taught in the public school system, it’s going to lead to tension and violence,” Weinstein said. “There’s absolutely no question about it.”The protest outside the school board headquarters is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on July 25.Hmmmmm......."We don't want to take over your country"?Read the full story here.

  • Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle.(NYTimes).Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years. Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity. “We are not detectives,” said Max Drucker, chief executive of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today.” The Federal Trade Commission, after initially raising concerns last fall about Social Intelligence’s business, determined the company is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but the service still alarms privacy advocates who say that it invites employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job performance.Less than a third of the data surfaced by Mr. Drucker’s firm comes from such major social platforms as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. He said much of the negative information about job candidates comes from deep Web searches that find comments on blogs and posts on smaller social sites, like Tumblr, the blogging site, as well as Yahoo user groups, e-commerce sites, bulletin boards and even Craigslist. Then there are the photos and videos that people post — or find themselves tagged in — on Facebook and YouTube and other sharing sites like Flickr, Picasa, Yfrog and Photobucket. And it is photos and videos that seem to get most people in trouble. “Sexually explicit photos and videos are beyond comprehension,” Mr. Drucker said. “We also see flagrant displays of weapons. And we see a lot of illegal activity. Lots and lots of pictures of drug use.” He recalled one man who had 15 pages of photos showing himself with various guns, including an assault rifle. Another man included pictures of himself standing in a greenhouse with large marijuana plants.Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s office in Houston, said that he regularly reminds employers and human resource managers about the risks of violating federal antidiscrimination employment rules and laws by using online research in hiring decisions. “Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research,” he said, which includes the gamut of information covering a person’s age, gender, religion, disability, national origin and race. That said, he added that 75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online, he said.Hmmmm......Living in a 'free society'? Read the full story here.

  • Ten Oil Rigs Have Exited the Gulf of Mexico Since President Obama’s Moratorium Went Into Effect.(BigGovernment).Ten oil rigs have left the Gulf of Mexico since the Obama Administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in May 2010, according to documentation the Pelican Institute obtained from Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) office.The ten rigs named in the document are: Marinas, Discover Americas, Ocean Endeavor, Ocean Confidence, Stena Forth, Clyde Bourdeaux, Ensco 8503, Deep Ocean Clarion, Discover Spirit, and Amirante. The rigs have left the Gulf for locations in Egypt, Congo, French Guiana, Liberia, Nigeria and Brazil.“This highlights the problem we have with losing domestic energy production as a result of the drilling moratorium and the slow permitting,” David Kreutzer, a research fellow in Energy Economics and Climate Change at the Heritage Foundation, said. “We must also keep in mind that the impacts are not instantaneous, the rigs may be idle for a while, but once they move it’s going to be difficult to move them back once they are drilling in say Nigeria or Brazil. The oil companies must have confidence they can move forward with their drilling plans and to know these plans won’t be revoked. Only certainty will bring them back.”Although federal officials announced they were lifting the restrictions last October, a “de-facto moratorium” remains in effect that stifles energy production and undermines large and small businesses in the Gulf region, industry officials have argued.Meanwhile, Sen. David Vitter has called out top Obama administration officials for issuing what he views as conflicting and misleading statements on the correct number offshore drilling permits. A U.S. Justice Department motion filed in March stated there are 270 shallow water permit applications pending and 52 deepwater permit applications pending.But in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this past March, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Interior Department had received only 47 shallow water permit applications over the previous nine months and that only seven deepwater permit applications were pending. Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, told Vitter personally that only six deepwater permits were pending, and he publicly stated that deepwater permits would be limited because “only a handful of completed applications have been received.”Over the past three months, deepwater permits are down 71 percent from their historical monthly average of 5.8 permits per month, Robert Bluey, a blogger and journalist with the Heritage Foundation, has reported on The Scribe. Shallow-water permits have also fallen in the past few weeks by 34 percent from the historical monthly average of 7.1 permits, Bluey reported.Hmmmm.......If he really wanted to destroy America would he do anything different?Read the full story here.

  • Germany blocks Greek bailout at eurozone crisis summit as debt-ridden country warns it faces ‘slow death’ without £45bn handout.(DailyMail).Greek hopes for second massive bailout may have been crushed today after Germany blocked a new £45billion cash injection during a crunch Brussels summit to save the euro.However, fears that Greece will default on its £290billion debt - and trigger the break up of the single currency - may have been allayed by an alternative plan proposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.Mrs Merkel suggested that the beleaguered Mediterranean country should fall into 'selective default' - meaning some of its loans would not be serviced as originally planned.But, instead of leaving buyers of Greek debt penniless, she suggested private investors swap their 10-year bonds for ones that mature in 30 years.Mrs Merkel is likely to persuade other leaders of her plan after removing her main stumbling block - France's alternative of bailing out Greece and paying for it over five years with a bank levy.In a meeting last night in Berlin, the German chancellor scored a major victory by persuading French president Nicolas Sarkozy to drop the idea.With a selective default, Greek banks may still need funds to recapitalise - but the sums required would be considerably less than the 50billion euros the Athens government wants.Greece's development minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis said his country's economy faced a 'slow death' unless leaders took decisive action.But news that the two biggest economies in the eurozone are in agreement has been been warmly received. Britain's FTSE 100 rose by just under 1% today.However, no decisions by the 17 currency bloc leaders at the emergency summit have yet been made and discussions may continue into the night.Among other proposals being discussed are issuing a single eurozone bond debt.This idea was also mooted by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who in a dramatic move away from traditional Tory reticence over a more centralised Europe, called for greater fiscal union among countries using the single currency.He also urged European leaders to 'get a grip' and warned that if action was not taken there was potential for a set of economic events that could be as damaging as 2008' and that Britain would not be spared.He insisted Britain should remain outside the euro, but said the 'remorseless logic' of the single currency meant issuing a single bond for those 17 member states 'worthy of serious consideration.'In the short term, with debts still being serviced - but rising across Europe - British homebuyers and firms are facing higher lending costs as banks try to boost their capital.Yesterday, the Bank of England warned that turmoil on the Continent was ‘likely to affect the price and affordability of credit to many households and businesses adversely’.The outcome of today's crunch Brussels summit could be pivotal to allaying these fears. Although a direct bailout of Greece may prove the best short-term way of stopping the bond market from crashing, Mrs Merkel believes that in the long term it will do harm.Her countrymen are also very wary of bailouts and historically have an obsession with fiscal prudence after era of hyperinflation in the 1920s.Before attending the summit today she said: 'We have a Eurogroup meeting today which will be about a further important step in overcoming the debt crisis. 'I expect that we will be able to seal a new Greece programme. That is an important signal. And with this programme we want to grasp the problems by their root.'That is to say the sustainability of the debt must be improved and the competitiveness must be improved above all, those are the two reasons why some countries in the euro zone have problems.'Labour former chancellor Alistair Darling said the eurozone needed to show it would ‘do whatever is necessary’ to stop the contagion spreading outside of Greece to bigger economies such as Italy.He said bailing out Greece would cost the German taxpayer but they ‘would be in it up to their necks’ if there was meltdown in the eurozone.Mr Darling told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there were ‘consequences’ to a single currency.He said: ‘Two things are necessary. I think the eurozone does need to look at the full issuing of euro bonds, which would make it cheaper for those indebted countries to borrow and give them some chance of getting out of it.'Secondly, you have got to accept that if you are in a single currency, you have got to behave as any other country would and that is the richer parts help the poorer parts through the reforms they need so they can start to grow.'‘It is essential that an agreement be reached on a plan that prevents further escalation of the crisis. Deciding not to decide could mark the end of the eurozone as we know it,’ they said.Hmmmm.......'Euro bonds' here we come?Read the full story here.

  • Yemen Al-Qaeda chief killed in fighting with army.(AlArabiya).Ayad Al Shabwani, a leader of Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been killed in fighting with the army, a military source said on Thursday.Shabwani was killed on Tuesday in heavy fighting that continued into Wednesday between the army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, east of the main southern city Aden, the source said.The official Saba news agency had said earlier that “two prominent members of the Al-Qaeda leadership were killed ... in Abyan province,” naming them as Ayad Al Shabwani and Awad Mohammed Saleh al-Shabwani.Yemen had said before that Ayad Al Shabwani was killed, along with five other leaders, in a January 15 air strike on a convoy of vehicles. Three days later, AQAP denied that either Shabwani or the five others had been killed.Militants believed to be linked to Al Qaeda took over much of Zinjibar in late May, and have been battling security forces ever since, displacing thousands of residents.Read the full story here

  • Exclusive: “I will never forgive them” Interview with the victim of the ‘Sharia whipping’.(MuslimVillage) has managed to secure an exclusive interview with Chris Martinez the Muslim convert who was the victim of a savage vigilante style attack misguidedly attributed to Sharia Law by a group of 4 offenders.
AK: Firstly, thanks very much for granting us this interview in these very hard circumstances. Can I start by asking you, how long have you been Muslim for?
CM: About 3 years, I’ve been reverted to Islam.
AK: I understand that one of the guys that was allegedly involved in the attack was someone that you knew?
CM: Yes that’s true.
AK: Was it someone who helped you convert, and talked to you about Islam?
CM: Yes.
AK: So you were friends with him, in other words?
CM: Yes. 100%. We were friends.
AK: And how do you feel about him now?
CM: Words cannot describe the anger at the moment that I have. I will never forgive him but I guess Allah will judge him on the Day of Judgment, and Allah can forgive him.
AK: Can you describe to me what happened on the night you were lashed?
CM: I have a problem with drinking that I have been trying to overcome. I had been drinking at home with a friend that morning. I am not sure how, but I know that somehow somebody must have seen me drinking. I went to bed at about 7:30. At 1am in the morning, I was woken up by my so-called friend who had another 3 individuals with him.
CM: What did he say to you?
AK: He told met that basically I would be getting 40 lashes as punishment for drinking alcohol.
AK: What went through your mind when he said that?
CM: At first I thought he was joking. But once they grabbed me and put me on the bed, I knew they were serious. They started whipping me. I was crying, screaming. In a lot, a lot of pain.Read and see the full story here.

  • Erdogan plans provocative Gaza visit next week.(Debka). Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants to visit Gaza next Sunday or Monday (24-25 July), debkafile reports. But both Turkish and Egyptian security services fear his visit would give the al Qaeda cells based in the Gaza Strip and Sinai a chance to assassinate him. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas maintains it would amount to de facto Turkish and Egyptian recognition of the Hamas government.And for Jerusalem, Erdogan would be seen as deliberately hampering the efforts to heal its rift with Ankara.If the visit is approved nonetheless, Abbas demands permission to enter Gaza City in time to lead the Palestinian welcoming party for the Turkish Prime Minister. The Egyptian military junta favors this plan, viewing it as a possible key to the revival of the moribund Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal which they brokered. But the Hamas government stands fast against Abbas entering the Gaza Strip.Our Washington sources report the Obama administration is not yet ready to comment one way or the other since word of the plan only reached them Tuesday, July 19, when Erdogan himself said out of the blue: "If conditions are right, I will consider a visit to Gaza." All the Americans knew was that he would be paying a weekend visit to the Turkish Republic of Cyprus and Cairo.The Turkish foreign ministry is meanwhile trying to sort out with the Egyptian authorities the problem of transporting Prime Minister Erdogan from Cairo to the Gaza Strip. According to debkafile's military sources, an escorted convoy across Sinai is out of the question because Egyptian security does not control the peninsula's highways and cannot guarantee his safety.Flying him over by helicopter is another non-option because, under the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Israeli permission would have to be requested and the flight coordinated with Israeli Air Force flight control – to which Turkey objects.The same objection applies to an Egyptian fighter plane escort of Erdogan's helicopter, a customary feature of state leaders' travel over hostile territory.A visit by Erdogan to Gaza would further sour the climate between the two countries – especially now when missiles are again being fired almost daily from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian locations.According to debkafile's Middle East sources, Erdogan's ill will and proneness to provocative gestures may be partly rooted in his frustration at being snubbed by Washington on a completely separate issue: Up until recently, he was certain President Barack Obama had tabbed him as mediator in the dispute between Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan rebels. Last week, he suddenly discovered that Obama had asked Moscow to step up to broker an end to the Libyan war, cutting Ankara out of the lead role.His Gaza visit may therefore be seen as a loud cry of protest.Hmmmmm......Or the visit was planned by the both of them during their weekly phonecall?Read the full story here.

  • Al Qaeda to release cartoon film that encourages children to commit acts of terrorism.(DailyMail).Al Qaeda sympathisers are planning to produce a children's cartoon film to inspire young Muslim viewers to take up armed violence against the West, security specialists who monitor militant websites say. Such a development would add to an expanding repertoire of media tactics employed by the trans-national group, which is placing increasing reliance on online propaganda to shore up support in the absence of successful attacks in the West. British counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam said news of the planned movie was announced by a contributor calling himself Abu al-Laith al-Yemen, on the password-protected Arabic-language al-Shumukh online discussion forum on Sunday.Al-Yemen said he and several associates were in the final stages of creating a cartoon about al Qaeda's Yemen-based branch that would teach children the history of al Qaeda and inspire them to commit acts of terrorism. Quilliam quoted al-Yemen as saying: 'The cartoon movie Al-Qaeda In The Arabian Peninsula is a very exciting story that tells the facts about who let down the Islamic religion and the Prophet, and how the Arab leaders are agents of the West and other Islamic issues.'Stills from the cartoon show masked figures firing rifles and executing captives, and al-Yemen said the cartoon would include depictions of real incidents - including 'raids, armed engagements and assassinations'.He added: 'This movie is a religious effort to educate our sons and youth about how to live a noble life under the shade of the Sharia. It's an alternative to the poison that is broadcast by other TV channels broadcast to our children and youth.'Will McCants, a leading scholar of militant Islamism and former U.S. State Department adviser on countering violent extremism, said he had not seen 'anything like it' before and was very sceptical the proposal was a real product. He added: 'But if it's legit and anywhere near like the purported screen shots and promotional banner, it would indicate that [al Qaeda] is becoming even more sophisticated in its efforts to reach out to youth.'The group uses the net not only to recruit and coordinate, but also to produce sophisticated propaganda, often downloading and re-editing Western media footage, to shore up morale among its globally scattered community of supporters. In a statement, Quilliam analyst Noman Benotman said many Muslim parents would see the venture as a direct attempt by al Qaeda to create divisions within families and to undermine the authority of parents.Hmmmm....... Read the full story here.

  • Biggest Mall In "Open Air Prison" Gaza Opens Its Doors.(Memri).The biggest mall in the Gaza Strip opened its door on July 19. The inaugural celebrations of al-Andalusia Mall were as big as the mall itself, which houses branded clothes, cosmetics, office supplies, toys and appliances, etc. Ihab al-Isawiya, a mall investor, said, "The mall is built on 3,000 square meters of land [about 32,000 sq. feet] and has 14 departments providing goods and services."The mall has a swimming pool and a small movie theater.Hmmmm.....Just in time for Erdogan's visit, perhaps he can do some shopping? Read the full story here.

  • The headless corpse, the mass grave and worrying questions about Libya's rebel army.(Telegraph).The five corpses floated disfigured and bloating in the murky bottom of the water tank. Wearing green soldiers' uniforms, the men lay belly down, decomposing in the putrid water.The streaks of blood, smeared along the sides of this impromptu mass grave suggested a rushed operation, a hurried attempt to dispose of the victims.Who the men were and what happened to them, close to the Libyan rebels' western front line town of Al-Qawalish in the Nafusa Mountains, remains unknown.But the evidence of a brutal end were clear. One of the corpses had been cleanly decapitated, while the trousers of another had been ripped down to his ankles, a way of humiliating a dead enemy.The green uniforms were the same as those worn by loyalists fighting for Col. Muammer Gaddafi in Libya's civil war. No one from the rebel side claimed the corpses, or declared their loved ones missing.There was no funeral, or call to the media by the rebels to see the 'atrocities committed by the regime'.Since the bodies were seen by the Daily Telegraph attempts to discover their identities have been unsuccessful, in part because of obstruction by rebel authorities in the area. Having highlighted the discovery to those authorities the area was subsequently bulldozed and the bodies dissappeared.The find will add to concerns highlighted in recent days over human rights violations by rebel forces. Human Rights Watch last week said that had looted homes, shops and hospitals and beaten captives as they advanced.The Daily Telegraph found homes in the village of al-Awaniya ransacked, and shops and schools smashed and looted. The town, now empty, was inhabited by the Mashaashia, a traditionally loyalist tribe that has long been involved in land disputes with surrounding towns.Human rights groups fear that reprisals may get worse as the rebels advance on towns nearer the capital such as Al-Sabaa and Gheryan which are loyalist strongholds.The author of the HRW report, Sidney Kwiram, last night called on rebel leaders to investigate the latest find. "It is critical that the authorities investigate what happened to these five men."At the time, rebel commanders, including former government troops who had defected, claimed that the men were most probably killed by Col Gaddafi forces for trying to defect - a common allegation."The day of our first assault on Al Qawalish we found the bodies there, and they were already in bad shape," said Col. Osama Ojweli, the military coordinator for the region."This is not unusual in Gaddafi's army. In other battles we have found men, their hands tied behind their backs with dusty wire and executed – we found them shot in the head by the regime."A colonel, who defected last month and cannot be named, said: "If they think you might leave, they will shoot you." His claim was backed up by loyalists captured and held prisoner in the nearby town of Yafran.But Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both said there were documented cases of extra-judicial killings by rebel forces, including deaths in custody under torture.In particular, in the early phases of the uprising, loyalists and sub-Saharan Africans accused of being mercenaries were lynched. Since then, men in rebel-held areas suspected of being members of Col Gaddafi's security services have been taken from the homes, and subsequently found dead with their hands tied.Both organisations say these are not on the scale of the abuses perpetrated by the regime. "We have come across a number of cases of executions of suspected Gaddafi fighters in both the east and the west," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of HRW."I does fit a consistent pattern, though I don't think these killings are authorised by the rebel authorities in Benghazi.""There is no comparison with the Gaddafi side. But the concern is that there is not sufficient will to address this in the leadership," she said. "It needs to be stopped before it becomes worse." Read the full story here.

  • Iraqi Daily Alleges that Jewish Gangs in Diplomatic Cars and Carrying Iraqi Identity Cards Forcing Christians to Convert to Judaism or Leave Iraq.(Memri).The following are excerpts:"Iraqi Christians have revealed the presence of Jewish groups which specialize in operations for killing or expelling Christians from Iraq unless they convert to the Jewish religion. One Christian family said that Jewish groups are pressing toward converting Christian families to the Jewish religion in return for getting support and protection from the dangers that that the Christian minority has been exposed to, for not a short while."[The Christian family] made it clear that Jewish groups move and travel regularly under official cover that allows them to move around in areas and residential quarters where majority of Christians are found. Half of the members of that [said] family have emigrated to Turkey and a few are left behind. One of its members said: 'The pressures to which they are subjected to convert from Christianity to Judaism are enormous.'"In light of what the Christian family has said, Iraqi national security agencies such as mukhabarat [intelligence service] and national security are making a swift pursuit in search of the Jews who spread out in Iraq under multiple covers and identities such as organizations of civil society and [commercial] companies. The source [not identified] has revealed that some Jews carry Kurdish identity cards issued by the Kurdish region. He said they follow various methods with the Christian families to convert some of them to the Jewish religion while those Iraqi Christians who have refused to cooperate with the Jews were killed, kidnapped, or expelled. "According to the same source, some of the Jewish elements travelled in the past in American military vehicles but now they move in civilian vehicles some carrying the tags 'C.D' - diplomatic corps - and others move around in the capacity of private guards, security companies or investors. The source, who has refused to reveal his identity, said he was awaiting resettlement in one of the European countries [with the help of] Turkey that facilitates the resettlement of Iraqi Christians against large payments amounting to $20,000 per person."The source said that he would be meeting with the UN Office for Human Rights in Turkey in the next few weeks. After he receives approval for his resettlement he will reveal the names and characteristics [of those] that bargained with him and his family and other Christian families that he either knows or are relatives of his who reside in Baghdad. "It is worth noting that the UN Human Rights Office in Turkey is headed by a Jewish employee."Hmmmm.........The 'Source' who is helped by.........Turkey?Read the full story here.

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