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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Overnight Music Video - Survivor - Burning Heart

Canada sells the oil sands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’

Canada sells the oil sands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’.(NP).By Terry Glavin.If there were a global competition for the most brazen and preposterously transparent attempt by a ruling political party to change a necessary subject of national debate with alarmist distractions and hubbub, the Conservative escapade engineered in Ottawa these past few days really deserves some kind of grand prize.let’s review what’s really going on, shall we?
The $5.5-billion Enbridge pipeline project is all about sending Alberta bitumen in huge oil tankers to China. Beijing’s own state enterprises are among the project’s major backers, and Beijing has been buying up Alberta’s oilpatch at such a dizzying pace lately it’s hard to keep up.
  1. In the spring of 2010, China’s state-owned Sinopec Corp. took a $4.65-billion piece of Syncrude.
  2.  Then the China Investment Corporation, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party, took possession of a $1.25-billion share of Penn West Petroleum.
  3. Last summer, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation gobbled up Opti Canada for $2.34 billion. And so on.
  4. Then, last month, Sinopec spent $2.2-billion to take over Daylight Energy Ltd.,
  5.  and last week, Petro-China, with the final push of $1.9 billion, became the owner and manager of the MacKay River oilsands project. This is what Ottawa doesn’t want you noticing.
Until now, Beijing’s strategy has been to fly under the radar by taking only pieces of oil sands ventures and to murmur occasionally about bringing in Chinese workers or pulling up stakes altogether should they hear too much backchat. Now, everything’s changed. Sinopec’s Daylight deal was a first: it was a complete takeover of a Canadian oil sands company by a Chinese state corporation. The MacKay River deal was a first, too, but in a bigger way: when the McKay project is up and running in 2014 it will be a full Chinese show, with a boss that answers directly to Beijing. The thing is, nobody in Ottawa wants to have a serious conversation about any of this.During the 2008 election campaign, the vow to block the export of Canadian bitumen for processing offshore didn’t come from Leonardo DiCaprio in some underground command bunker of Hollywood eco-freaks. It was what the federal Conservative Party said. Back then, Ottawa’s very own Competition Policy Review made a series of recommendations about how to deal with takeovers of Canadian resources by foreign state-owned companies. Ottawa promptly ignored those recommendations. In last May’s federal election, the subject simply didn’t come up. And now it’s serious. Really serious.
It’s not just old-school Canadian nationalists who think so. Last April, a poll conducted for Canadian environmental groups found that 72.8 per cent of British Columbians were worried about China’s increasing command of Canada’s resources sector.
This isn’t just old Vancouver hippies worrying about the implications of 200-plus tankers taking oil out of Kitimat every year. Last summer, John Bruk, the Asia Pacific Foundation’s founding president, warned that Ottawa was ignoring the rapid emergence of Chinese government interests “in sheep’s clothing” taking over Canada’s natural resource industries. Bruk told B.C. Business magazine: “Are we jeopardizing prosperity for our children and grandchildren while putting at risk our economic independence? In my view, this is exactly what is happening.”As things have turned out, Bruk was more right than he knew.Read the full story here.

Palestinian Minister: Israeli Jails More Horrible than Nazis' Dungeons .

Which University did G. Shalit 'graduate' from while in Captivity?

Palestinian Minister: Israeli Jails More Horrible than Nazis' Dungeons.(FNA).TEHRAN - Palestinian Minister for Captives Affairs Ataollah Abu Sabah said Palestinian prisoners are suffering harsh and inhuman conditions in Israeli jails, and stressed that Israeli prisons are much more horrible than those of the Nazis'. Speaking told FNA, Sabah said that almost 4,400 Palestinian prisoners are incarcerated in Israeli jails, and added that those prisoners who are sentenced to long terms of imprisonment are kept in central prisons whose conditions are gravely inhume and terrible. "These prisons lack sanitation and are overcrowded," he said, and added that Israel is using the harshest methods of suppression against Palestinian prisoners in these jails. He added that conditions in Ketziot Prison, where many Palestinian political prisoners are held, are even harsher than the conditions tolerated by prisoners in the Nazi Germany. Sabah added that prisoners in Ketziot are not safe from night torture. Palestinian prisoners have always voiced complaint about the torturing and mistreatment of prisoners by Israeli guards. In July, more than 20 Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Negev jail were poisoned after eating meals served in the prison's canteen, prisoners reported. They explained that after eating burger sandwiches from the canteen the prisoners suffered from diarrhea and vomiting after which they were carried to the prison's clinic but the administration did not tell them about their condition. They asked the Red Cross to intervene and demand their transfer to hospital for adequate checkup. Also in July, thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israel staged a mass hunger strike to defend prisoners' rights and protest against Israeli guards' inhumane behavior. Read the full story here.

Hmmmm...............Samir Kuntar; is a Lebanese Druze convicted murderer and former member of the Palestine Liberation Front. On April 22, 1979, at the age of 16, he participated in the attempted kidnapping of an Israeli family in Nahariya that resulted in the deaths of four Israelis and two of his fellow kidnappers.In addition, while in prison Kuntar graduated from the Open University of Israel with a degree in Social and Political Science.The Red Cross visits the Palestinian prisoners on a regular basis and writes reports where necessary. If the organization sees problems in the treatment of prisoners it raises the issue with the jail’s management team, said Israel Prison Service (IPS) Spokesman Ian Dominitz. “They are held in very good conditions in accordance with all international conventions including the Geneva Convention even though they are not even classed as prisoners of war,” said Adato. The prisoners have access to books, newspapers, 10 TV channels (four in Arabic), radio and receive vouchers to spend in prison minimarkets. “The conditions of the prisoners are governed by law and the regulations of IPS,” said Dominitz. “They have rights and privileges,” he added. Of the 270 inmates studying for degrees at Open University, a program that enables continuing education, at the end of 2010, the vast majority were Palestinians and Israeli Arabs serving time for links to terrorism. The most popular courses are Introduction to the History of the Middle East in Modern Times; Genocide; Basic Concepts in International Relations; Israeli Arab Society; and Islam: Introduction to the History of the Religion, according to Israel’s Prison Service. An item in the Palestinian daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida (Oct. 9, 2010) spoke of Palestinian prisoners gaining masters degrees and doctorates while in Israeli jails. Source.

Is Iran stronger than the West believes?

Did Obama 'Blink' ? Joint US-Israel drill postponed to 'defuse Iran tensions'.

Obama 'Blinked' - Joint US-Israel drill postponed to 'defuse Iran tensions'.(Ynet).
A major joint Israel-US military drill, which was set to take place in a few weeks time with the participation of thousands of IDF and US army soldiers, has been postponed by at least six months, Ynet reported Sunday. The decision was made by Defense Ministry officials in coordination with the Pentagon. A number of global media outlets said the exercise will likely take place in the summer – at the earliest.
Israeli officials said the Americans asked to delay the drill so as not to heighten tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and avoid drawing any additional attention from the Arab countries during such a turbulent period. Security establishment officials said the decision was also related, in part, to budgetary concerns. The decision to postpone the drill comes after the US condemned last week's assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran and after US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the recent developments in the Islamic Republic.
Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet's military analyst, said Washington is looking to defuse tensions in the region following Iran's military exercise in the Strait of Hormuz and the raid by Iranian protesters on the British Embassy in Tehran. The Americans also hope the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran will force it to engage in talks over its nuclear program, he said. According to Ben-Yishai, the decision to delay the drill is also related to financial concerns. Washington has cut its defense budget for 2012 by $450 billion dollars – a move which is aimed at helping the US tackle its national debt, which has affected the country's credit rating.Hmmmmm........."The Americans also hope the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran will force it to engage in talks over its nuclear program."Obama just POSTPONED the oil sanctions for 6 months....on who's side is he?Read the full story here.

Obama Has Silenced the Republicans.

Obama Has Silenced the Republicans.(JI).By Prof. Paul Eidelberg.That Barack Obama should disparage the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, the two foundational documents that enabled him to realize what he called the “audacity of hope,” is a monumental display of what animates America’s first black president, the Audacity of Ignorance and Arrogance.
But no less appalling is the incompetent assortment of Republican presidential candidates who hope to replace him. Obama is the perfect target for a candidate that wants to restore American Exceptionalism, for as John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations observed long before the current presidential primaries, Obama is the first “post-American” president. Especially blameworthy is one of the more competent candidates on domestic affairs, former Speaker of the House of Representatives New Gingrich. Gingrich, a professor of history, is familiar with the celebrated “Lincoln-Douglas” debates. Indeed, Gingrich reported in his website—note its name—that Barak Obama, ensconced as President of the United States, skipped the phrase “our Creator” at least four times when citing the Declaration of Independence, even though the teleprompter included the words we are “endowed by our Creator.” See, American Exceptionalism, Vol. 6, No. 25, June 22, 2011. Why doesn’t Gingrich expose Obama’s anti-Americanism? This is what Abraham Lincoln did in his 1860 campaign against Senator Frederick Douglas, who Lincoln accused of violating “our ancient faith” embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Almost any Republican candidate could do this with the exception of Ron Paul, a gentleman from the “American First” school of politics who alas, is also an ignoramus. Obama is a perfect target for Republican candidate concerned about the decline of American Exceptionalism. He can be exposed as a cultural or moral relativist, which would explain the anti-Christian posture he has taken throughout his presidency. The question arises: What’s lacking among the Republican Party candidates? Is it political wisdom or political courage?Are the Republicans afraid of being accused of “racism”? Are they afraid of being accused of Islamo-phobia?Are there no politicians in America with courage and intelligence enough to warn their fellow Americans that when Obama campaigned in 2008 on the theme of CHANGE, he had nothing less in mind than a fundamental change in the political character of the regime—a bloodless revolution? This revolution would stifle individual freedom, on the one hand, and transform the government into bureaucratic welfare state, on the other. In fact, it is precisely in terms of this political revolution that we should understand his political and judicial appointments, as well as his devastation of the economy, which is intended to expand the powers and functions of the bureaucracy which he is stuffing or staffing.An abundance of facts can and should be cited to illustrate Obama’s radical intentions—which may readily be linked to his anti-American supporters, for example, George Soros. But mindless fear seems to have silenced the most eligible Republican candidates.If this is the case, none will expose the greatest threat to America and Judeo-Christian civilization than Islam, to which Obama bowed when he genuflected to Saudi King Abdullah and supported the PLO over against Israel.
Why hasn’t the Republican Party exposed Obama’s treachery?

Prof. Paul Eidelberg is a political scientist, author and lecturer; Founder and President, Foundation for Constitutional Democracy, a Jerusalem-based think tank for improving Israel's system of governance.Read the full story here.

One Nation Under a New Holocaust

Egyptian "Moderate" Muslims watching 'soccer game'.


Security and Defense: Cold winds blowing from the North

Security and Defense: Cold winds blowing from the North.(JPost).By Yaakov Katz.
They are spotted along the border every few kilometers, sometimes in groups and sometimes on their own. The Israeli soldiers are under clear orders – keep a distance and do not engage with them.
Nevertheless, there is concern as to why Syria has beefed up the amount of troops stationed along its border with Israel in the Golan Heights, particularly now, when every soldier is needed to protect embattled President Bashar Assad.The IDF Northern Command is split between two theories.
Some officers think that the Syrians are laying the ground for a small border skirmish, which could potentially escalate into a larger confrontation, with the ultimate goal of diverting attention away from the massacres on the streets of Homs to the Arab world’s traditional enemy – Israel.
According to this school of thought, the Syrian people would rally behind their leader and forgive him for his past crimes as he protects them and wages war against the Zionists.The other theory is that the slight increase in Syrian soldiers along the border is not sanctioned by the regime in Damascus but is a result of large-scale defections – thousands of soldiers and officers are believed to have gone AWOL – and instead of returning home, they are milling around the border.Either way, there is concern in the IDF that the border with Syria, which has been the quietest of Israel’s borders since the Yom Kippur War, could become more like the border with Lebanon or the Gaza Strip where the IDF needs to be on high alert all day and every day.Almost a year into the protests and after at least 5,000 people – mostly innocent civilians – have been killed, there is still no clear way for how Assad and his regime will be brought down. While Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Assad would fall “within weeks,” he has been making these predictions for months and Assad does not appear ready to go.Some intelligence officials in Israel admit that Assad is not likely to just pick up and leave on his own and that in absence of international intervention – like there was in Libya – it could still take some time. But foreign intervention is unlikely.While the world feared Muammar Gaddafi, his military was outdated and barely functional. This is not the case with Syria, which demonstrated its military might during maneuvers in late December when it test fired a Scud missile as well as new antiship cruise missiles it recently received from Russia.Israel, which would like to see Assad toppled, is concerned that foreign military intervention could lead the president to attack – a fear that did not exist in the Libyan case.The situation in Syria is also incomparable at the moment to the revolution in Egypt. There, the military for the most part sat on the sidelines and remained in the consensus, whereas in Syria the military is heeding Assad’s orders to violently crack down on the protesters.
Unlike Hosni Mubarak, who did not want to be remembered for killing protesters but never thought he would find himself being wheeled into a cage in a courtroom on a stretcher, Assad knows there will be no retirement package in a Tartus vacation home on the shores of the Mediterranean after he steps down. He will not be able to remain in Syria and the number of countries willing to receive him is quickly dropping.A potential game-changer for Assad, though, could be the continuation or even an increase in the number of soldiers – and particularly senior officers – who defect from the military and refuse to open fire on peaceful demonstrators. Without the military’s support, Assad will have trouble remaining in power.Naturally, the IDF is closely following the situation in Syria. On the one hand, the feeling is that in the long term Assad’s fall could positively change the reality along Israel’s northern front – further isolating Iran and cutting off the main weapons supply line to Hezbollah. There is concern, though, that that the situation in Syria could lead to a conflict in the more immediate term.
The first concern is what will happen the day after Assad. Who will succeed him and whose hands will all of the advanced weaponry he has accumulated fall into? Syria has one of the most extensive arsenals of chemical weapons in the world, including Sarin, VX and mustard gas. It also has hundreds of long-range Scud missiles.One possibility is that Hezbollah would try to get its hands on the weaponry.There are already signs that Hezbollah has been moving some of the advanced weaponry it had been storing in Syria into Lebanon out of fear that it will be lost if Assad falls. If the West were to receive intelligence on the transfer of chemical weapons to Lebanon it might take preemptive action.The other possibility is that these weapons would be secured by the new Syrian government. But considering that no successor can be accurately identified, Israel cannot sit confidently and believe that the weapons will be safe.Of particular concern is the possibility that an al-Qaida-like global jihad element is growing in Syria. The infrastructure could be based on fighters who crossed into Syria from Iraq and the IDF suspects that global jihad terrorists were behind the twin suicide bombings that killed over 40 people in Damascus last month.If this is the case, then Hezbollah getting its hands on chemical weapons might be the lesser of two evils.
Another question the IDF is grappling with is whether Assad – when he feels the end is near and his back is up against a wall – will look to shift attention away to Israel.To do this, he will likely seek to cause a conflict in a way that will make it seem as though Israel, rather than Syria, is the aggressor.
How? One way would be to order thousands of pro-regime activists to try to cross the border into Israel, like 100 Palestinians did on Nakba Day in June. Then when IDF soldiers open fire to stop the infiltrators, the Syrian military will have an excuse to return fire.
This is the type of potential scenario that is the main concern for the Northern Command, which recently deployed an additional infantry battalion in the Golan in order to be able to respond to, and hopefully contain, such incidents.Read the full story here.

SOLYNDRA: The scandal that will defeat Obama

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

HT : The Astute Bloggers.

MFS - The Other News

                    Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation Argentina 6.7 - 6.5 ; Solomon Islands 5.3; Russia 5.1 !More info here.

  • Bolton: Why Is Obama Taking Credit For Navy SEAL Team 6 Killing Bin Laden?(Fox).Mitt Romney’s newest foreign policy surrogate didn’t waste any time before going on the attack.Last night, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton made a fierce debut by Romney’s side, delivering some of the harshest criticisms of President Obama’s foreign policy to date.“He’s not only the most radical president in history domestically; he is the first president, republican or democrat, at least since Franklin Roosevelt, who didn’t get up every morning thinking first about what threats the united states faces. he just doesn’t care about national security the way other presidents did, ” Bolton told the audience at a veterans rally in Hilton Head, South Carolina.The American people are looking for a president “who doesn’t believe that the role of America in the world is to be a well-bred doormat,” Bolton said.He also stripped the president of any credit for the killing of Usama Bin Laden.“It’s because navy seal team 6 killed Usama bin laden. that’s his definition of success. as somebody pointed out, in 1969 when Americans landed on the moon, it’s like Richard Nixon taking for credit for that, because it happened to occur during his presidency,” he said.Read the full story here.

  • Issa Committee Releases Charts Ahead of Holder Hearing.(BN).Mark this date down. On February 2nd, Attorney General Eric Holder will be in front of the Oversight Committee for the first time to answer questions about Fast and Furious. A website started by the committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa has released a couple of very informative charts. One shows who all of the players are and who is ultimately responsible for the operation. Think of it as an accountability flow chart.I wouldn't be surprised if this chart ends up right behind Issa so Holder can stare at it during the hearing.Here is a similar chart that focuses on the victims. Perhaps the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) should take this one to heart. Each member of the CHC is a Democrat and not one of them has called for Holder's resignation.Read and see the full story here.

  • National Groups File Challenge to Obama’s Unconstitutional Stacking of NLRB.(BigGovernment).The National Right To Work (NRTW) joined by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), and Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) took off the legal gloves and are forcing the Obama Administration to defend its unconstitutional appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Some say that President Barack Obama is creating a serious constitutional crisis.This is the first legal challenge regarding these NLRB Board appointees who Obama appointed without a U.S. Senate confirmation process; but, more are expected.From the NRTW release: Washington, DC (January 13, 2012) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed a motion in federal court challenging the legality of President Barack Obama’s recent purported recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).The legal challenge is part of a larger case attacking controversial new NLRB rules that require every employer to post incomplete information about employee rights online and in the workplace, even if they’ve never violated or been accused of breaking federal law. The NLRB’s posting rules do not require union officials to issue information about workers’ rights to refrain from union membership or opt out of union dues. Currently employers can only be required to post notices if the Board has ruled that a violation of labor law occurred.The Foundation’s case has been consolidated with other legal challenges to the biased NLRB notice posting rules brought by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), and two small businesses. Those parties filed the joint motion today raising the issue of the NLRB’s lack of authority to implement the rule given the unprecedented recess appointments.The new filings in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia case comes after NLRB lawyers notified the court that President Obama’s recent recess appointees were now parties in the ongoing legal battle. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s New Process Steel decision, the NLRB needs three members to act. However three of the five current NLRB members were installed by unilateral Presidential appointment earlier this year, despite the fact that the Senate was not in a self-declared recess.In the motion papers, Foundation attorneys argue that the controversial appointees to the Board are not legitimate because the U.S. Senate is still in session per the body’s rules, so there was no “recess” for the President to make appointments without Senate confirmation. Therefore the NLRB lacks the necessary quorum to implement the new posting rules. Foundation attorneys are asking the judge to rule on the constitutionality of the three recess appointees.“President Barack Obama has already shown time and again that he is willing to abuse his executive authority to force more workers into union-dues-paying ranks,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Now Obama’s executive abuse jeopardizes the constitutional balance our country holds very dear, all in the name of paying back his Big Labor benefactors.”The implementation of the NLRB’s new posting rules, originally supposed to be in August of last year, has been twice delayed due to the legal challenge in the Foundation’s case. The rules are currently scheduled to be effective on April 30, 2012.The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is also a party in the case, but is not party to the Foundation’s motion.Read the full story here.

  • Ya'alon dismayed with US response to Iran threat.(JPost).Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon voiced disappointment with the Obama administration on Sunday, saying "election-year considerations" lay behind its caution over tough Iran sanctions sought by US legislators.While Washington has been talking tougher about Iran's nuclear work and threat to block oil export routes out of the Gulf if hit with harsher sanctions, new US measures adopted on Dec. 31 gave US President Barak Obama leeway on the scope of penalties on the Iranian central bank and oil exports.The senior official contrasted the administration's posture to that of France and Britain, which he said "are taking a very firm stand and understand sanctions must be imposed immediately.""In the United States, the Senate passed a resolution, by a majority of 100-to-one, to impose these sanctions, and in the US administration there is hesitation for fear of oil prices rising this year, out of election-year considerations," Yaalon told Israel Radio."In that regard, this is certainly a disappointment, for now."The remarks by Yaalon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, appeared to jar with praise centrist Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered last month for what he described as Obama's resolve against Iran.The Democratic president has said he is determined to deny Tehran - which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful needs only - the means to develop an atom bomb. His aides cast their sanctions strategy as a bid to work collaboratively with foreign powers and win over states that import Iranian oil without triggering price-boosting shocks to energy markets.Read the full story here.

  • US looking for assurances J'lem won't strike Iran.(Jpost).Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel next weekend as part of a reported new and concerted American effort to prevent Israel from taking unilateral military action against Iran.Dempsey’s visit – reported in The Jerusalem Post last month – comes as US concern is growing over the possibility that Israeli military action is being planned for the near future. It will be Dempsey’s first meeting with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz as the US’s highest ranking military officer.In a recent interview, Dempsey said Israel would likely not update the US ahead of such an operation.On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported on contingency planning by the US in preparation for a possible Israeli military strike.According to the report, the phone conversation between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday was one of a series of messages warning Israel of the consequences of military action.Israel and the US have reportedly been at odds recently regarding the preferred timetable for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US has said military action will become a real option only after the Islamic Republic begins building a bomb. According to some reports, Israel has warned of other so-called red lines, such as the activation last week of the new underground uranium enrichment facility near Qom.According to The Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other officials have failed to receive assurances from Israel that it is not planning a military strike soon.Hmmmm....."Pour les vaincre, messieurs, il nous faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace et la Patrie sera sauvée!" ~ Danton. Read the full story here.

  • Car bombs, suicide blasts target police station, mosque in Iraqi city of Ramadi.(AlArabiya).At least five people were killed and six more wounded after a series of explosives-packed cars and suicide bombs were detonated in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday. Four car bombs had targeted a mosque and a police building in the city, AFP news agency reports. The bombs were followed by two suicide bomb blasts inside the police building.Security forces had cordoned off the police building, which also holds several al Qaeda suspects in a jail, officials said.“Police and army are surrounding the building. There is no exchange of fire, but the security forces are studying storming the building and saving the hostages,” the police official said.Ramadi, capital of the mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province, witnessed some of the worst violence during the height of the war that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It was the heart of a Sunni Islamist insurgency tied to al-Qaeda.The initial suicide bomb blast killed five people but it was not clear how many possible hostages were inside, one police official at the scene said.Violence in Iraq had ebbed since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007 when thousands were killed in attacks between Shiite and Sunni groups. But the withdrawal of the last American troops in December has fanned worries of a spike in violence.Read the full story here.

  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter After Meeting With Badie: I Recognize Egyptian People’s Love for the Muslim Brotherhood.(IW).Dr. Mohamed Badie, Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and his deputy Khairat Al-Shater met with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, president of the Carter Center international foundation, and his accompanying delegation, at MB headquarters.In a press statement, Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, MB spokesman said: “Carter congratulated the Muslim Brotherhood on the legislative elections results, stressing that he’s come to recognize the love of the Egyptian people for the Muslim Brotherhood as a result of their sacrifices and their interaction with all people in society, and that his foundation reports confirm that the Egyptian parliamentary elections were fair and reflect the will of the Egyptian people.”With regard to the Palestinian issue, Carter stressed that the Israeli side did not honour the rights of the Palestinian people enshrined in the peace treaties, as evidenced by its continued settlement activities and the seizure of Palestinian land. He added that he, personally, when he was president of the United States, as well as Bush senior, made real efforts to stop the settlements, but were not successful, and that Bush junior and President Obama allowed the Israelis to increase their settlement efforts.For his part, the MB chairman welcomed Carter’s visit, and hailed the role played by the Carter Center and its testimony for the fairness of the Egyptian elections, adding that the elections result is a huge responsibility placed by the Egyptian people on the shoulders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who vow to effect democratic change and achieve stability, security and rejuvenation of Egypt, hoping that this change should be a role model for all the countries of the region.Dr. Badie also expressed his indignation and condemnation of the continuing gross injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people, and called on the U.S. administration to change its biased and constant support for the Zionist side, to take a practical just position on this issue, and not to resort to “mere soothe-saying as we heard from President Obama”, if it wanted a change in people's hearts, currently overflowing with hatred towards the successive U.S. governments.Hmmm......Carter still fighting strong for the tittle "Worst President ever"?Read the full 'story' here.

  • US, Israel in open rift over Iran: Big joint military drill cancelled.(Debka).US-Israeli discord over action against Iran went into overdrive Sunday, Jan. 15 when the White House called off Austere Challenge 12, the biggest joint war game the US and Israel have every staged, ready to go in spring, in reprisal for a comment by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon in an early morning radio interview. He said the United States was hesitant over sanctions against Iran's central bank and oil for fear of a spike in oil prices.The row between Washington and Jerusalem is now in the open, undoubtedly causing celebration in Tehran.Nothing was said about the 9,000 US troops who landed in Israeli earlier this month for a lengthy stay. Neither was the forthcoming visit by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, Thursday mentioned.The exercise was officially postponed from spring 2012 to the last quarter of the year over "budgetary constraints" – an obvous diplomatic locution for cancellation. It was issued urgently at an unusually early hour Washington time, say debkafile's sources, to underscore the Obama administration's total disassociation from any preparations to strike Iran and to stress its position that if an attack took place, Israel alone would be accountable.Israel's Deputy Prime minister further inflamed one of the most acute disagreements in the history of US-Israeli relations over the Obama administration's objections to an Israel military action against Iran's nuclear sites in any shape or form. Yaalon ventured into tricky terrain when he pointed out that US Congress had shown resolve by enacting legislation for sanctions with real bite. But the White House "hesitated." He went on to say: "A military operation is the last resort, but Israel must be ready to defend itself."The friction was already fueled last week by the deep resentment aroused in Israel by Washington's harsh condemnation of the assassination last Wednesday, Jan. 11, of the nuclear scientist Prof. Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, and absolute denial of any US involvement.Although Tehran has since accused the United States of the attack, the White House treated it as the defiant sign of an approaching unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran to which the administration is adamantly opposed.Friday, Jan. 13, the Pentagon announced the substantial buildup of combat power around Iran, stationing nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait - two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit – and keeping two aircraft carriers the region: The USS Carl Vinson, the USS John Stennis and their strike groups.Debkafile's military sources report that a third aircraft carrier and strike group, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is also on its way to the Persian Gulf.This massive military buildup indicates that either President Obama rates the odds of an Israel attack as high and is bolstering the defenses of US military assets against Iranian reprisals - or, alternatively, that the United States intends to beat Israel to the draw and attack Iran itself.The official purpose of Gen. Dempsey's visit next Thursday was supposed to be coordination between the US armed forces and the IDF. But his main object was another try to dissuade Israel's government and military leaders from plans to strike Iran without Washington's prior consent.The "budgetary constraints" pretext for cancelling Austere Challenge 12 is hard to credit since most of the money has already been spent in flying 9,000 US troops into Israel this month. Although the exercise in which they were to have participated was billed as testing multiple Israeli and US air and missile defense systems, the exercise's commander, US Third Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Gorenc, announced that the event was more a "deployment" than an "exercise."Its cancellation leaves Washington and Jerusalem at loggerheads in four main areas.Neither Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Deputy Prime Minster Yaalon, who are responsible for all decisions on Iran, are willing to put all their trust for defending Israel in American hands or relinquish unilateral military options against Iran. They believe US officials when they assert that the administration is prepared to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but they want to see proof of the pudding and actions to back up the rhetoric. In the light of credible intelligence that Iran is very close to achieving its nuclear goal, Israel is holding on to its military option over American objections.Read the full story here.

  • Iran warns Gulf states not to replace its oil.(Jpost).TEHRAN - Iran warned its Arab neighbors on Sunday not to raise crude output to replace Iranian oil in the event of an embargo by the European Union, Tehran's OPEC Governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying."The consequences of this issue are unpredictable. Therefore, our Arab neighbor countries should not cooperate with these adventurers and should adopt wise policies," Khatibi said in an interview with the Sharq newspaper.European Union countries have agreed in principle to embargo imports of Iranian as part of the latest Western efforts to step up heat on Tehran.They will look to other oil exporters to increase output to make up for the shortfall and Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Saturday his country was ready to meet any increase in consumer countries' demand.Iran has threatened to block the vital oil shipping route of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if sanctions imposed on its oil exports.Read the full story here.More here.

  • Armenian genocide: Israel must maintain its moral compass.(JPost).Was the recent surfacing of the Armenian tragedy in the Israeli Knesset rooted in political or moral ground? Fully aware that the timing of the public debate on the Armenian tragedy recently held by the Knesset’s Education Committee is political to an embarrassing degree, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin set out to negate this immediate perception by stating, more than once, that the reopening of the debate on the issue was not a matter of political or diplomatic considerations, but a moral duty.Such rhetoric aims to establish a narrative according to which the Israel-Turkey political relationship held Israel’s moral position hostage. Now that Israel is free from its political commitments to Turkey, the argument goes, Israel may officially declare that what happened to the Armenians during WWI was genocide.However, to argue that Israel did in fact keep silent on this issue for the sake of maintaining political ties with Turkey is tantamount to declaring Israel’s moral bankruptcy.A state that prides itself on earnestly trying to do the right thing despite endless and tremendous challenges and unprecedented moral trials cannot afford to abandon its moral compass in this manner.Is Israel prepared to sacrifice the integrity of its current president, whose position symbolizes Israeli consensus, and say that when Shimon Peres announced unequivocally in April 2001 that what happened to the Armenians was tragic but not genocide, he sold morality for political gain? Tragically, by blurring the differences between the Holocaust and the massacre of Armenians, Israel is harming itself by lending a hand to the continued practice of irresponsible use of the term genocide in other arenas of conflict, such as the conflict Israel itself has with the Palestinians. In a growing number of forums, campaigns against Israel’s position in its conflict with the Palestinians are armed with the term genocide as a weapon of mass political pressure.This has already had a detrimental effect on Israel’s international relations, but will surely haunt it to a greater extent in days to come, especially should the United States reduce the level of its commitment to warding off accusations against Israel in the international system. Such a scenario may eventually lead to united international opposition against Israel, and perhaps even to outside interference with Israeli actions through international courts of law. Is it hard to imagine a possible law somewhere in Europe that would make it illegal to deny the “genocide” of the Palestinians? Instead of letting politicians add more fuel to the fire of misuse of the term genocide, careful scholarly work must be done to investigate the transition from Holocaust to the modern-day use of the term genocide and put its politicization in proper academic perspective.Read the full story here.

  • Iranian Christian Pastor Nadarkhani Rejects Release Offer.(BNL).By Stefan J. Bos.Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam's prophet Mohammed as "a messenger sent by God" well-informed Christians and rights activists said Friday, January 13.  Iranian authorities reportedly summoned lawyers for Pastor Nadarkhani to his home city of Rasht on December 30, to explain the deal. Local officials indicated they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement about Mohammed, Christians with close knowledge about the situation explained."However, Pastor Nadarkhani has refused to do so, and remains in prison awaiting a final decision on his case," confirmed advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement to BosNewsLife.Christians said the pastor has made clear that making the demanded statement about Muhammed would amount to abandoning his faith in Jesus Christ.Another source assisting the pastor told BosNewsLife there is concern about the renewed pressure on Nadarkhani, who faces execution for refusing to recant his Christian faith and return to Islam."Keep in mind that brother Youcef has not had a Bible the entire two years and about three months that he has been in prison. He has no access to a computer or the outside world other than meeting with his wife and family," the source said.Yet, the Christian said that "The Holy Spirit is sustaining him in his faith and endurance". He added that the 34-year-old pastor, who is married with two children, "is healthy in mind and body and his faith is as strong as ever."Pastor Nadarkhani was detained in the city of Rasht in October 2009, while trying to register his Church of Iran home congregation, with hundreds of members in Gilan province.With international pressure mounting, "I think judges would rather release him, but are under pressure by hardliners to execute him," explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's Church of Iran. "That's why the court asked the Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini for an opinion so they can say they are not responsible for his execution," he told BosNewsLife.CSW said Iran's latest conditions for his release violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.“Just as the initial conviction of Pastor Nadarkhani is illegal under Iranian law, the recent offer made by the authorities in Rasht is a violation of the Iranian constitution, and of international covenants to which Iran is a signatory that guarantee freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion," said CSW's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas.He told BosNewsLife that his group has called for his unconditional released and "of all those imprisoned in Iran purely on account of their faith."Read the full story here.

  • Syria's First Lady falling from grace.(Emirates24/7).Not so long ago, she was the darling of the international press, described as a "rose in the desert" and "a ray of light in a country full of shadow zones."But today, Syria's First Lady is being likened to a modern-day Marie-Antoinette, drawing criticism for staying mum on a crisis that has left more than 5,000 people dead in her country.The British-born Asma al-Assad, who virtually disappeared from the public eye after the revolt broke out in Syria in mid-March, made a surprise appearance this week to support her husband Bashar as he spoke at a pro-regime rally.Pictures of the 36-year-old, all smiles with two of her children, adorned the front pages of many Arab and Western newspapers."This shows that she is standing by her man, that she and him are on the same page," said Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria and former press adviser to local charities run by the First Lady."She is clearly part of the regime."Her appearance, however, has also drawn scathing criticism."Bashar's wife and kids cheer on daddy the dictator," one tweet scoffed."The British should withdraw Asma Assad's passport and those of her parents as accessories to a war criminal," fumed another.But the former investment banker continues to attract admiration among supporters of the Assad regime.Syria's First Lady has emerged as a style icon in the world of politics and has been compared to the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan or France's Carla Bruni, with a reported fondness for Chanel in particular.Tall, stylish and charismatic, Asma al-Assad is the picture of glamour: in designer outfits and her trademark Christian Louboutin heels, her impeccable British accent and credentials have helped promote the soft side of an iron-fisted regime."She was an important part of the public relations of the regime," Tabler said."She has an obsession with fashion," he added. "How do you reconcile this princess-like image with one of the poorest countries in the Middle East?"The daughter of a prominent London-based cardiologist, Fawaz al-Akhras, and a former diplomat, Sahar Otri, Asma is seen as the modern, progressive side of the Assad dynasty, with a degree from King's College in London where she was raised.Ten years her husband's junior, Asma has welcomed the likes of the Spanish king and queen and Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to her country.During a 2010 visit to France, Asma told French weekly Paris Match that she had married Bashar for the "values" he embodied.Fashion magazine Vogue even ran a glowing interview with her before the outbreak of the revolt, describing Asma as the "most magnetic of first ladies," but later removed the article from its website.Bashar's rise to power more than a decade ago symbolised the hope for change in a country long isolated internationally.Once a banker with J.P. Morgan, Asma herself is credited with having played a significant role in liberalising the Syrian economy.Bashar and Asma for years have been viewed as a symbol of coexistence in multi-confessional Syria. While the president is a minority Alawite, Asma is a Sunni Muslim who originally hails from Homs -- bastion of the current anti-Assad revolt.But as the death toll in Syria tops 5,000, many find the pair increasingly out of touch with reality.In a 2009 interview with CNN, the honey-eyed Asma slammed Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip as "barbaric" and, "as a mother and as a human being," called for an end to the violence."This is the 21st century. Where in the world could this happen? Unfortunately it is happening," she said in a calm, soft voice.Now her own words have come back to haunt her."Stop being a hypocrite! You are slaughtering your own people!" one YouTube commenter recently wrote beneath the video.Another summed it up in two words: "Lady Macbeth."Read the full story here.

  • Kristin Butler: UN Resolution Threatens Freedom of Speech.(Crosswalk).By Kristin Butler. A new resolution introduced at the United Nations Human Rights Council has free speech advocates concerned about a potential backlash against religious minority groups. Previously introduced as Resolution 62/154, “Combating defamation of religion,” the piece was originally written to criminalize the criticism of religion. Advocates worried that the resolution would, at best, limit freedom of speech, and at worst, jeopardize religious minorities in countries carrying heavy punishments for blasphemy and apostasy.Recently the piece has morphed into Resolution 16/18, the goal of which is “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based upon religion or belief.”But in spite of the seemingly benign language, free speech advocates say there is still cause for concern. According to Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, in some Islamic countries, particularly those with harsh penalties for apostasy and blasphemy, it often doesn't take much for religious minorities to incite extremist rage. "Just the building of churches ... having a cross outside your door can be inciting violence," Sekulow says. "So if you let them define these definitions when there is no problem coming from the minority faiths, this is somehow going to 'green-light' their suppression," he explains.Advocates point to the case of Asia Bibi, a wife and mother who awaits death by hanging in Pakistan after being charged with blasphemy. During a dispute over drinking water, Bibi's Muslim co-workers accused the Christian woman of insulting the Prophet Mohammed – charges that led to her conviction of blasphemy in a Pakistani court. Religious freedom advocates say that religious minorities often bear the brunt of persecution under blasphemy codes in Islamic countries. In Pakistan, Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities comprise only 3 percent of the population of 180 million.Those opposing the resolution say that the countries most heavily lobbying for its passage are those with less than ideal track records for freedom of speech or religious diversity. Jordan Sekulow, Director of Policy and International Operations for the American Center for Law and Justice, says that the countries pushing this resolution are countries whose “populations are 90 to 99 percent one single religious group.” He is concerned that religious minorities in these predominately Muslim countries already face some forms of persecution, and that the passage of this resolution might serve to increase persecution against minority groups. "What is the problem here with the 1 percent speaking out and why is that such an issue that needs to be handled at the international level?" he asks.The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is backing the resolution. Frank Gaffney, president of the American Center for Security Policy, questions the group's goals for the resolution, accusing the group of attempting to promote Sharia, Islamic law, through the passage of the resolution. "It is 57 states and Palestine that have come together to promote what is fundamentally the agenda that is known as Sharia," he says.Read the full story here.

  • Kuwait police abused transgender women: HRW.(Alarabiya).Human Rights Watch on Sunday accused Kuwaiti police of torturing and sexually abusing transgender women and called on the Gulf state to hold officers accountable.In a report, the New York-based group said that police have been using a “discriminatory” amendment to the penal code passed by parliament in 2007 which arbitrarily criminalizes “imitating the opposite sex.”Transgender women are individuals who are born male but identify themselves as female.The arbitrary and ill-defined provisions of the law have allowed numerous abuses to take place against them, said the 63-page report based on interviews with 40 transgender women, as well as with interior ministry officials, lawyers, doctors, and members of civil society.The accusations were based on the accounts of the 40 victims “all of whom gave almost a similar story on what they faced,” Rasha Moumneh, HRW's Middle East and North Africa researcher, told a press conference in Kuwait City.“We have met with officials from the interior ministry ... and presented the findings to them but have not yet received any response,” Moumneh said, adding that Human Rights Watch does not know the exact number of transgender women in Kuwait.Kuwaiti police have a free rein to determine whether a person’s appearance constitutes “imitating the opposite sex,” without any specific criteria being laid down for the offence, the report said.Transgender women reported being arrested even when they were wearing male clothes and then later being forced by police to dress in women’s clothing.In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, transgender women said police arrested them because they had a “soft voice” or “smooth skin.”“No one ̶ regardless of his or her gender identity ̶ deserves to be arrested on the basis of a vague, arbitrary law and then abused and tortured by police,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said in a statement.“The Kuwaiti government has a duty to protect all of its residents, including groups who face popular disapproval, from brutal police behavior and the application of an unfair law,” the statement said.Abuses include degrading and humiliating treatment, such as being forced to strip and paraded around police stations, being forced to dance for officers, sexual humiliation, verbal taunts and intimidation, HRW said.“In several cases, Human Rights Watch found that police officers took advantage of the law to blackmail transgender women into sex,” the report said.Redress for these violations was difficult for fear of retribution and re-arrest, said the rights watchdog.“HRW calls on the Kuwaiti government to repeal the amendment to article 198, criminalizing imitating the opposite sex,” the report said.Pending repeal of the law, the interior ministry should issue a moratorium on arrests of individuals and the government also should work to protect transgender individuals, it said.Read the full story here.

  • Solving Turkey’s puzzle: Children as brides, parents as abusers.(TodaysZaman).In what activists and legal experts alike hail as a potential precedent-setter in children and women’s human rights, “attempted sexual abuse” charges have been filed in two recent “child bride” cases in Turkey.What makes the action so progressive, though, is the defendants who are charged with sexual abuse are the children’s parents.A prosecutor’s office filed a criminal complaint last week against the parents of a 15-year-old in Bolu on charges of “attempted sexual abuse” and “deprivation of liberty” for trying to marry off their young daughter against her will. The parents of the girl countered that because the marriage has not yet taken place and the child has not been physically abused no crime has occurred.In another incident, Nizip Public Prosecutor Burç Berkan Alp charged the family of a 12-year-old girl who gave birth last week in Gaziantep with sexual abuse, as the young girl was married well below the legal age limit. But these stories are merely the latest manifestations of a chronic malady ailing Turkey.While most young girls busy themselves with classwork and friends, more than 180,000 girls under the age of 18 are married in Turkey, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat).But what does that really mean?If all of the child brides in Turkey were brought to the country’s biggest soccer stadium (52,695 capacity), Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Stadium, they would fill every seat, more than three times over.Even if they were moved to Atatürk Olympic Stadium (76,000 capacity), the girls and young women wedded under the age of 18 would fill Turkey’s largest-capacity stadium more than two times over.While eastern and southeastern Turkey are traditionally considered the hotbed of early marriage, activists argue it is important to remember nearly 25,000 of Turkey’s child brides live in the western province of İstanbul.According to Turkish women’s rights activist Pınar İlkkaracan, the problem is not the law itself but its lack of implementation. “Early marriage has been forbidden in Turkey since 1926. That is 85 years,” she said.According to the Turkish Civil Code, a person is allowed to marry at the age of 18 without parental consent. An individual may marry at age 17 with parental consent and at age 16 under special circumstances with court approval.Ankara attorney Gürkan Özocak, in comments to Sunday’s Zaman, reaffirmed that the charges have teeth in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).According to Article 103 of the TCK, “A person who sexually abuses a child shall be punished by imprisonment of three to eight years.” Accordingly, a person entering into sexual relations with a child under 15 years of age whether it is consensual or not is punishable under this article.Özacak then elaborated on the difference between “abetting” and “attempted” sexual abuse charges. “If the families of child brides marry off their children by means of unofficial marriage arrangements and the children enter into sexual relations with the person with whom they are forced to marry, the parents are liable for ‘abetting crimes of sexual abuse’ and face between three and eight years for each person who had sexual relations with their child,” he said.But if the marriage has not yet occurred or if it has not been consummated, as is the case with the 15-year-old in Bolu, the parents could then face charges of “attempted sexual abuse.”“One of the most important reasons behind child marriages in Turkey is the children’s parents. Deterrent penalties for parents who marry off their young children against the law are extremely important,” Özocak commented.Read the full story here.

  • Atheism under wraps in Egypt.(BikyaMasr).CAIRO: Outside, the January evening air is blowing wet and cold, better suited to London than Cairo. Inside this brightly lit Nasr City café, all is cozy and warm, as young Egyptians cluster around tables in study groups and discuss politics.The interview has wrapped up and it’s time to go when the couple sitting beside us flags our attention.“Psst, we couldn’t help overhearing you talking to that Muslim Brother,” Sophia says, pushing aside her laptop. “But we just want you to know that in this ‘100 percent religious’ country, we belong to that non-percent.”“And what is that non-percent?”“Atheism,” she says, her dark curls at odds with the sea of hijabs in Cilantro.“We just believe more in science and reason,” 23-year-old recent pharmacy school graduate Sophia, says, glancing around for eavesdroppers.“But,” adds Sam, who is sharing her piece of chocolate cake, “you can get in big trouble for even questioning religious matters or asking theoretical questions. Even with my parents,” 25-year-old telecommunications engineer adds, “I don’t bother bringing it up.”“Sam” and “Sophia” may be well educated, and the setting, Starbucks-esque cafe Cilantro, may be upscale, but what they talk about is still so heretical in this country, that being Jewish is often more acceptable.Sam was raised Coptic and Sophia Muslim. Her father disowned her when she told him she no longer considered herself Muslim.“He disowned her for thinking for herself, can you believe it,” Sam says, in obvious admiration of Sophia’s rationality.Technically atheists can be sued, though it’s rare. In 2000, a State Security Court found atheist author Salaheddin Mohsen guilty of “holding Islam and the Prophet Mohamed in contempt and questioning the divine sanctity of the Holy Qur’an.”Salaheddin had called for the establishment of an Egyptian Atheist association.While still largely underground, atheists in Egypt have found a small community and support online. Sam and Sophia met on the social-networking site“The sad thing is, a few decades back, Egypt was much more liberal,” Sam notes.“People could flirt in public, laugh, wear what they wanted, even, god-forbid, have pre-marital sex.”“Flirt in public”—a bit ironic said in this upscale and urbane cafe where occasionally hand-holding couples who laugh too loudly are asked to leave for “inappropriate behavior.Hmmmm........There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious." ~ Ayatollah Khomeini. Read the full story here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cruise ship Costa Concordia runs aground off Italy at least 3 dead, 67 missing.

Police arrest Italian captain of cruise ship that ran aground, killing 3.Porto Santo Stefano, Italy (CNN) -- The captain of the colossal cruise ship that ran aground off a picturesque Italian island -- killing three people, injuring 20 and leaving dozens unaccounted for -- was arrested late Saturday and is being investigated for abandoning ship and manslaughter, a local prosecutor said.Abandoning ship is the more serious of the potential charges, authorities said.Two survivors on the Costa Concordia have been found inside the ship, Italy's ANSA news agency reported early Sunday. The man and woman have responded to the rescuers, but have not yet been reached, according to the news agency.With perhaps up to 50 people unaccounted for, divers suspended their efforts at dark, with plans to resume the search in the azure waters off the island of Giglio at dawn Sunday.Accounts of the chaos from many of the 3,200 passengers were reminiscent of a maritime disaster 100 years ago this April -- the loss of the RMS Titanic."For me, the worst part of the whole ordeal" was when a lifeboat crew member told those boarding that it was "women and children first," said passenger Benji Smith of Boston."All these families who were clinging to each other had to be separated," Smith told CNN.Questions abounded: Why was the ship so close to the shore? How fast was it moving? How well did the crew respond? According to many passengers, no one seemed in control.
The captain, Francesco Schettino, was interviewed here about what happened when the Costa Concordia struck rocks in shallow water off Italy's western coast, said officer Emilio Del Santo of the Coastal Authorities of Livorno.Schettino said "that rock was not indicated on the chart," according to ANSA. "Me and the crew, we were the last to abandon ship," he said.The ship was 2.5 miles off route when it struck a rocky sandbar. Local fishermen say the island coast of Giglio is known for its rocky sea floor."There are rocks, they are on the maps," said Capt. Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian Coast Guard. "What we know is the ship went really close to these rocks. ... We don't yet why.""Captain Schettino, who was on the bridge at the time, immediately understood the severity of the situation and performed a maneuver intended to protect both guests and crew, and initiated security procedures to prepare for an eventual ship evacuation," he continued. "Unfortunately, that operation was complicated by a sudden tilting of the ship that made disembarkation difficult," Onorato said.The ship, which was lying on its side in shallow water Saturday evening, was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members when it ran aground."I'm not surprised that it (the ship) would wind up tipping like this," said Neil Gallagher, professor of naval architecture at the Webb Institute on Long Island, New York. "Something had to go wrong with either the controls or the navigation to get it to this condition."Chris B. McKesson, adjunct professor of naval architecture at the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of New Orleans, said, "from the size of the gash, she must have been steaming at a pretty good pace."Read the full story here.

Israel Ties Infuriates India Muslims.

Israel Ties Infuriates India Muslims.(OnIslam).BANGALORE – A recent cooperation between India’s ruling Congress government and Israel, including opening an Israeli embassy in Bangalore, is sending shockwaves across the country’s Muslim political and religious groups who denounced the growing ties as making “India’s stand on Palestine imbroglio a farce.” “It is pertinent to note that increasing cooperation between New Delhi and Tel Aviv makes India’s stand on Palestine imbroglio a farce,” Social Democratic Party of India, (SDPI) said in a statement on Friday, January 13 cited by the Two Circles website. The fury erupted following a visit by India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to Israel recently where he described Israel and India as natural allies and said that both the countries were facing international terrorism. During such visit, the Congress-led UPA Government agreed to grant Israel permission to open a Consulate in Bangalore. Angered by the move, SDPI national president Mr. E. Aboobacker and general secretary Mr. A. Sayeed issued a joint statement condemning the Union Government’s move. “India seeking to forge a joint strategy with Israel to deal with the scourge of terrorism is a big joke as the latter over nine decades has been massacring unarmed Palestinians, including women and children, with impunity.” Aboobacker added that the decision contradicts with India’s position towards the Palestinian cause, recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s statement in 1946 when he denounced Jews decision to build their country on the rubbles of Palestine.
A founder of the Non-Alignment Movement, India had been a staunch supporter to Arab issues. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Indian-Israeli relations have seen a U-turn. In 1992, full diplomatic relations were set up between the two countries and since then bilateral relations have grown exceedingly. Not only political groups. The new India-Israel ties were condemned by Indian Union Muslim League as betraying Palestinians. “This is travesty of justice because what Israel was facing is an struggle of Palestinians to free their own country from the illegal occupation of Israel; this cannot be equated with terrorism,” League’s chief Prof. Basir Ahmed Khan said. Expressing concerns about recent visit to Israel, the timing of the visit has particularly condemned by the League leader who said that mosques are being burnt and Israeli forces are torturing the Palestinian youth. Other Muslim groups in India pointed fingers at Israel Mossad agents as being responsible for inciting troubles among the country’s Muslims and Hindus. They referred to press reports which blamed the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai on saffron forces with the help of Mossad. “It amounts to mere mockery because Israel is by itself a fountain head of terrorism globally. E. M. Abdul Rahiman, Chairman of Popular Front of India, said in a statement. Rahiman also condemned UPA Government for signing a pact with Israel to forge anti-terror activity.   “Unfortunately, our government is acting as a tool to implement the aggressive policies of USA and its close ally Israel. Also Popular Front views the India-Israel joint decision to open Israel’s consulate in Bangalore, as a threat to our national interests,” he said. “It will be a catalyst to the communal and terrorist agenda of the Hindutva fascist outfits, particularly in Karnataka state which is already in their grip.” There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.Read the full story here.

The Jews who paid for their own WWII prison

Westerbork, Holland, Lighting of Hanukkah candles in the camp.A Jewish inmate, Rudolf Werner Breslauer, who enjoyed good relations with camp commandant Gemmeker, prepared this album, probably in early 1943.Belongs to collection:Yad Vashem Photo Archive.

Radio Netherlands:The Jews who paid for their own WWII prison.(AD). What was daily life in Westerbork concentration camp like? To find this out archaeologists are excavating the rubbish dump of the WWII Nazi detention and transit camp for Jews in the north east of the Netherlands.
Micha Schliesser is one of the Jews who survived the camp. Seeing all the recovered personal belongings brings back memories. I can't imagine my mother without her perfume bottle. She would have taken that with her. At first I thought it was an insane and stupid idea, but now I think there should be a permanent collection. Micha Schliesser was a baby only one and a half years old when his parents were moved to Westerbork concentration camp. He was one of the first Jews to live there.Number 128. My father was number 127, so I must have been 128. Both he and his parents survived the holocaust.The excavation of the personal belongings of the people in the camp brings back many memories - especially the display case with round spectacles and combs.It almost makes me cry. The people who left these things behind were alive. Four days later they were most likely dead.


Schliesser visits schools to teach the new generation about the holocaust. The excavated personal possessions bring to life what it was like in Camp Westerbork. Not much has survived of the transit camp, where 107,000 Jews stayed before being transported to German extermination camps.
In 1939, before the Second World War broke out in the Netherlands, Micha Schliesser and his parents came to the country as refugees. They were on their way to the United States. Although their visa was almost complete, they were picked up at the Dutch border and sent to barracks in Amsterdam. Schliesser's father was asked whether he and his family would 'voluntarily' go to Westerbork to help build the Jewish refugee camp.

Queen Wilhelmina

The Dutch government built the Westerbork refugee camp in 1939 in the north east of the Netherlands. The original location on the Veluwe in the eastern province of Gelderland was too close to the home of the Dutch royal family. Queen Wilhelmina refused to have a camp 15 kilometres from Palace 't Loo.The government didn't want to put any money towards the refugee camp. Therefore the Jewish community was asked to pay. So we paid for our own prison, sighs Schliesser.
After 70 years we're back to where we started, according to Schliesser. He can get very angry about the current Dutch government deporting people who came here as a young child.I would like those politicians to experience being stateless and not having a passport for protection for a year. What would they feel like then? Following the German invasion in May 1940, an attempt was made to evacuate the Jewish refugees to England. They didn't get very far. After deliberation with the Jewish community, the Dutch government decided the refugees should return to Camp Westerbork. Schliesser's father didn't want to flee, go into hiding or remain in Amsterdam illegally. In that respect my father was typically German. So the family returned to Westerbork. They didn't have much choice, says Schliesser:If you asked a farmer in the neighbourhood for help, he would pretend to help, but then return you to the camp the next day. He would receive two and a half guilders for doing so.Hmmmm...........“For how would a man benefit to gain the whole world but destroy his soul or lose it?”~ Luke 9:25.Read the full story here.

Psychic's Predictions For 2012: From 30+ Years Ago!

This psychic predicted the attacks upon America, and Obama years in advance. What he has to say about 2012 is unbelievable. HT : Before it is news.

MFS - The Other News

                    Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity situation South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands 5.2 !More info here.

  • Obama Proposes New Department of Corporate Welfare.(Cato).By Tad DeHaven. Contrary to what various news outlets are reporting, President Obama is NOT proposing to cut government. The administration is proposing to take four independent federal agencies that specialize in corporate welfare – along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – and combine them with corporate welfare programs at the Department of Commerce to form what would I would argue should be called the Department of Corporate Welfare.According to reports, this rearranging of the deck chairs would save $300 million a year. That’s peanuts. Worse, those alleged savings will be of no consequence to taxpayers as there is nothing to suggest that the president intends to cut overall spending for the agencies comprising the new bureaucracy. That portends bigger government, not smaller. The president is trying to sell the American taxpayer a false bill of goods.The president’s proposal is also an attempt to counter the perception – an accurate one – that the administration’s policies are detrimental to commerce. But corporate welfare is detrimental to commerce because the market distortions it creates hinder economic output. Making it easier for select businesses to help themselves to taxpayer-financed subsidies would only perpetrate the same sort of crony capitalist schemes that gave us Solyndra and the Chevy Volt.Of course, no transparent attempt to appear “business friendly” would be complete without a bone toss to the Small Business Administration. The “bone” this time is the president’s intention to elevate the head of the SBA to the Cabinet. As I discuss in a Cato essay on the SBA, rather than helping small businesses compete against big businesses, the SBA’s loan guarantees mainly help a tiny share of small businesses compete against other small businesses. In reality, the biggest beneficiary of the SBA is the banks, which reap the profits from the loans guaranteed by the agency.Finally, Republican policymakers talk a good game about cutting government, but they often hide behind calls for making the federal government “more efficient.” Now that the president has seized a political opportunity to sing from the GOP’s hymnal, it’ll be interesting – if not entertaining – to see how Republican policymakers respond. To avoid embarrassment, I recommend offering specific spending cuts.Hmmm.....What interest me is "Will there be Another Tsar at the head of it?Read the full story here.

  • India gov't agrees to prosecute Google, Facebook.(HurriyetDaily).India's government authorised on Friday the prosecution of 21 Internet firms including Facebook and Google in a case over obscene content posted online, two sources told AFP.The approval will lead to company directors being called to a trial court in New Delhi to answer serious charges such as fomenting religious hatred and spreading social discord, an official and a lawyer said.Internet giants including Google and Facebook were embroiled in a growing battle in India over offensive content with a judge warning websites may be blocked "like in China", stoking worries about freedom of speech in the world's largest democracy. The Delhi High Court had a hearing on Monday of an appeal by Google, Facebook and others against a lower court case by a private petitioner seeking to remove images considered offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians from websites. "The lower court gave a ruling asking the companies to take down some content, we appealed that ruling and it is in the higher court," said a Google spokesman in India on Friday. A law passed last year in India makes companies responsible for user content posted on their websites, requiring them to take it down within 36 hours in case of a complaint. The lower court affirmed the law last week. "If a contraband is found in your house, it (is) your liability to take action against it," Justice Suresh Kait told lawyers from Facebook India and Google India on Thursday, according to the Economic Times newspaper. "Like China, we can block all such websites (that don't comply). But let us not go to that situation." Less than 10 percent of India's 1.2 billion people have Internet access, though the connected population is rapidly growing through social media tools on mobile phones, bringing many into contact for the first time with images intended to offend. More than 880 million people have mobile phones in India, but more expensive Internet-capable 3G models are out of reach for many. Civil rights groups opposed the laws, but politicians say that posting offensive images in the socially conservative country with a history of violence between religious groups presents a danger to the public as Internet use grows. In December, Telecoms Minister Kapil Sibal weighed into the debate, urging Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to remove offensive material. Despite rules to remove offensive content, India's Internet access is still largely free when compared with the tight controls in fellow Asian economic powerhouse China. The India units of Facebook, Yahoo! Inc and Microsoft Corp declined to comment. Lawyers for the companies appeared in the lower court on Friday, but the judge adjourned the proceedings until March, Vinay Rai, the petitioner, told Reuters by phone.Read the full story here.

  • Finding moderate Muslims.(DocsTalk).By SultanKnish.What were viewers willing to endure rather than experience the Shiite version of the Jersey Shore? They tuned in to National Geographic’s “Alaska State Troopers,” Tru TV’s “Lizard Lick Towing” and Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” but you couldn’t get them to watch “All-American Muslim.” Which just goes to show that we’re a nation of Islamophobes. Or that even people with bad taste in television have standards.The dirty little liberal secret is that progressives don’t watch “All-American Muslim” either. The show only exists as an Islamophobia talking point. Every time an advertiser drops it in favor of “Finding Bigfoot,” the progressives crow that once again they have proven that we are a nation that hates Muslims and loves Bigfoot.All-American Muslim’s hopeless ratings suggest that Americans are more confident of finding Bigfoot than of finding those even more imaginary creatures: moderate Muslims who reject terrorism of all kinds. They certainly aren’t to be found on “All-American Muslim” where the guest Imams have been far less peaceful than Bigfoot who in all his decades of appearing in grainy videos has not been known to curse infidels or support terrorist groups.Read the full story here.

  • Obama, US secretary of defense have warned Jerusalem of dangerous repercussions of strike.(JPost).The United States has begun taking measures to plan for an Israeli strike on Iran in order to protect US facilities in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.The contingency planning came as a result of concern within the US defense establishment that Israel is planning to attack Iran over the Islamic Republic's reported nuclear armament program, according to the newspaper.US President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and other senior US officials have reportedly delivered messages through private channels to the Israeli government warning them about the dangerous repercussions of a military strike on Iran.Washington is concerned that Iraqi Shi'ite militias may attack the US embassy in Baghdad at Iran's behest. Some 15,000 US diplomats, federal employees and contractors will likely remain in Iraq, the newspaper reported. Tensions between the Jewish state and the Islamic republic spiked above normal this past week when an Iranian nuclear scientist was blown up in his car in Tehran in an attack that Iranian officials blamed on Israel.President Shimon Peres, speaking a number of days following the bombing, said that the attack was not carried out by Israel, to the best of his knowledge. US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a phone conversation Thursday, discussing "recent Iran-related developments."Hmmmm......You have to wait for my reelection strategy?Read the full story here.

  • Obama czar proposed government should ‘infiltrate’ social network sites, chat rooms, message boards.(WND).By ArronKlein.Just prior to his appointment as President Obama’s so-called regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein wrote a lengthy academic paper suggesting the government should “infiltrate” social network websites, chat rooms and message boards.Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein argued, should be used to enforce a U.S. government ban on “conspiracy theorizing.”Among the beliefs Sunstein classified as a “conspiracy theory” is advocating that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.The find comes as a government document reportedly relates the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.Reuters reported that a “privacy compliance review” issued by DHS last November confirms that since at least June 2010, the department’s national operations center has been operating a “Social Networking/Media Capability” which involves regular monitoring of “publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards.”While the DHS may be monitoring websites for security reasons, Sunstein advocated such actions with another goal in mind.Sunstein’s official title is Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.In a 2008 Harvard law paper, “Conspiracy Theories,” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule, a Harvard law professor, ask, “What can government do about conspiracy theories?”“We can readily imagine a series of possible responses.
  1. Government might ban conspiracy theorizing.
  2. Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories.”
In the 30-page paper – obtained and reviewed by KleinOnline – Sunstein argues the best government response to “conspiracy theories” is “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.”Sunstein’s paper is not the first time he has advocated banning the free flow of information.In his 2009 book, “On Rumors,” Sunstein argued websites should be obliged to remove “false rumors” while libel laws should be altered to make it easier to sue for spreading such “rumors.”In the book, Sunstein cited as a primary example of “absurd” and “hateful” remarks, reports by “right-wing websites” alleging an association between President Obama and Weatherman terrorist William Ayers.He also singled out radio talker Sean Hannity for “attacking” Obama regarding the president’s “alleged associations.”Ayers became a name in the 2008 presidential campaign when it was disclosed he worked closely with Obama for years. Obama also was said to have launched his political career at a 1995 fundraiser in Ayers’ apartment.Hmmm........Why does the terms Beria and NKVD Camps suddenly come to mind?Read the full story here.

  • Senate Conservatives Warn Reid Against PROTECT IP Blitz.(Heritage).Six conservative U.S. senators voiced concerns Friday over the substance and procedural context of controversial legislation to block Internet piracy, noting potential economic damages and free speech restrictions the legislation might impose.Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tom Coburn (R-OK), sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Friday expressing their concerns.The letter, whose signatories include the ranking Republicans on the Budget, Finance, and Judiciary Committees, warns of “breaches in cybersecurity, damaging the integrity of the Internet, costly and burdensome litigation, and dilution of First Amendment rights” could result from passage of the hotly-contested PROTECT IP Act.The legislation would empower the Justice Department to pursue legal action against any site that hosts content that violates intellectual property laws through measures that could include blocking access to such sites for all American Internet users. Given the concerns voiced by third parties opposed to the legislation, the letter states, Senate leaders “need to resolve as many outstanding concerns as possible prior to proceeding to floor consideration.”The senators also reaffirmed their request that “the bill be fully debated and amendments not limited” when it does comes to the Senate floor – on Jan. 24, according to the current Senate schedule. That tight time frame, the senators warned, may not permit the substantive changes to the legislation needed to secure their support.Read the full story and the letter in full here.

  • Children in New York contract mysterious illness, Fed Govt preventing disclosure of disease.(Libertyconfidential).Late last year, 12 girls in New York were hit with strange symptoms that included spasms, and tics. Some children were so bad, and for so long, that they had to be pulled out of school and tutored at home. One who couldn’t return to school had seizures. Parents have been demanding answers since late 2011. An investigation was launched into why these children — all girls who attend the same school, Le Roy, in New York — have come down with this mysterious illness. Visits to psychologists, medical doctors, MRIs, and more, have been conducted over the past months. Nothing has been revealed.The story took an unsettling turn this week when a government health official told parents not to worry, that they know what’s been making the children suffer these symptoms; but that the government will not permit the disclosure of details, not even to the parents. The official, from the state health department, called it a “federal issue.”At a recent meeting with almost 200 concerned parents and Le Roy School students, Gregory Young from the state health department said that all 12 girls had been diagnosed and are being treated. But Young also told the audience that the diagnosis and cause of the mysterious illness could not be shared because of the HIPPA Privacy Rule.Dupont told WHAM News: “Want to know something? If my daughter had a diagnosis and I knew about it, and I would, as her parent, I would tell you that!” According to WHAM, there was a heated exchange during the question and answer portion of the meeting. One angry parent even stood up and asked parents of girls with the tics to tell the rest of the parents whether there was a diagnosis or not. All the voices, about a half a dozen, yelled out “No!”.  A reporter from WHAM even spoke to a parent on a condition of anonymity, and asked if he was aware of any diagnosis. He said that he did not get a diagnosis from doctors. Hmmmm.......all young girls.Did these girls receive Gardasil vaccinations? A 'bad batch' in the lot?Read the full story here.

  • NATO radar system in Turkey up, running.(Hurriyet).An early warning radar system deployed in the eastern Anatolian province of Malatya began its surveillance activities Jan. 1, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned from reliable sources. A small number of U.S. troops were deployed to the military base at Kürecik in Malatya in the last week of 2011 since the Turkish military has no qualified personnel to run the U.S. AN/TPY-2 (X-band) early warning radar system. Despite the deployment, the installation is a Turkish base and will be commanded by a Turkish high-ranking officer, the source said. Turkey joined the NATO-led nuclear defense program only after its conditions were addressed by the alliance. It agreed to the deployment of the early warning radar system on its territory in mid-2011 while the alliance, in turn, agreed to the posting of a high-ranking Turkish general at NATO headquarters in Germany, where intelligence gathered through the radar system will be processed. Details of the radar system’s functions were discussed during a visit by Gen. Knud Bartels, NATO’s recently appointed military committee chairman, to Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel on Jan. 9. Iran, which is already in a spat with the United States over its controversial nuclear program, has strongly opposed Turkey’s move to deploy the radar.“The U.S. radar stationed in Turkey is no good for any Muslim country,” Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani told Turkey late Jan. 12 at a press conference while demanding further information on the matter. “But we have confidence in our Turkish friends.”Hmmmm.....Did Turkey give Iran guarantees it will never be used against them?Read the full story here.

  • The west's useful idiots.By MelaniePhilips.In its editorial (£) this morning, the Times still clings to the delusion that the ‘Arab Spring’ was the harbinger of democracy in the region. Although it coyly concedes that ‘the path of change is strewn with uncertainties’ such as the fact that ‘Sunni extremist parties have gained electoral support in Egypt, while Coptic Christians have suffered murderous attacks’, such, ah, ‘uncertainties' do not deter the Times from concluding nevertheless that ‘The Arab Spring is nonetheless a movement as inspiring as the fall of communism.’ If the Times was hoping to win this week’s Pangloss Award for the most asinine display of intellectual blindness and wishful thinking, it has surely been pipped at the post by the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague who has also written in the Times. After entering at the start his own coy caveat: ‘Violence and votes for Islamism are a setback but this was never a quick fix’ he nevertheless passes smoothly on from this setback to reason to the quick fix of fantasy: ‘...being realistic does not mean losing faith. Far from it: greater freedom and democracy in the Middle East is an idea whose time has come. It holds the greatest prospect for the enlargement of human freedom and dignity since the end of the Cold War. ‘On the positive side, Tunisia has its first democratically elected parliament since the 1950s, with 24 per cent of the seats held by women. Morocco has held free elections under a new constitution that, for the first time in its history, means a prime minister from the party that won most votes, rather than one picked by the King. Turnout in the first phase of Egypt’s elections was above 60 per cent, compared with 23 per cent in the 2005 elections under the Mubarak regime. Libya has a new government after more than 40 years of dictatorship. Positive reform is under way in Jordan, and Yemen has agreed a political transition negotiated by the increasingly influential Gulf Co-operation Council. Bahrain has begun to take steps to implement the conclusions of its commission of inquiry into the violence last year, although the need for full implementation remains.’ Rub your eyes indeed. The fact is that the principal outcome of this ‘Arab Winter’ is the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood -- the anti-Jew, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-human rights body of jihadists that is currently making spectacular inroads into the western culture it intends to conquer, as well as mounting selective murderous attacks as through the Hamas in Gaza; and close behind them are Islamists who are yet more extreme. Those relatively moderate Arab countries which have not yet succumbed to the Islamists, such as Jordan, are desperately holding out; but the gains the extremists have made in Egypt and elsewhere mean that such resistance against them has been weakened. The British government’s partner in this crime against freedom, the Obama administration – acting in accordance with the Obama doctrine of embracing America’s mortal foes while dumping on its allies –has now openly reached out to the Brothers. While reports have been denied that Obama has used the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi as an intermediary in the American surrender talks with the Taleban, the overtures by the US to the Brotherhood are being openly acknowledged. The reason given is that since these guys have won power through elections, the US has no alternative but to talk to them. Neville Chamberlain said much the same thing at Munich. Read the full story here.

  • A Greek Default Would Hit the ECB Hard.(Spiegel).By Stefan Kaiser. Hopes that Greece can be saved are dwindling. Athens had hoped to reach a deal with its creditors on a 50 percent debt haircut, but banks have now made it clear that efforts to reach an agreement could fail. Should the country go bankrupt, the European Central Bank stands to lose the most.Read the full story here.

  • Erdoğan, Obama discuss latest developments in Middle East.(TZ).Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama spoke on phone on Friday to discuss regional developments.Turkish Prime Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Erdoğan and Obama discussed issues related to the security and development of the Middle East and North Africa. The statement said the two leaders discussed ways to continue supporting a broad-based government in Baghdad that will bring stability, democracy and prosperity. Erdoğan’s discussion with Obama came two days after the Turkish prime minister talked to his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, warning him that arrest warrant he issued for one of his Sunni vice presidents, also a close friend of Turkey, will hurt democracy in the war-torn country. Erdoğan told Maliki to take steps to reduce tensions in Iraq following a series of bombings in the capital of Baghdad after Maliki issued an arrest warrant for Tariq Hashemi last month.Many attacks in recent days in Iraq have targeted the country's Shiite majority, increasing fears of a serious outbreak of sectarian violence following the withdrawal of US troops last month.Obama and Erdoğan also discussed recent developments in Syria and agreed that both countries will continue condemning Syrian regime’s brutal military crackdown on protesters and will support legitimate demands of Syrian people. The statement added that both leaders expressed that there is a need for Iran to continue its dialogue with international community with respect to its suspected nuclear program. Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who is on a visit to Turkey, said on Thursday that he believes that the standoff over his country's nuclear program can be solved through serious talks.Larijani told a news conference after meeting Turkish leaders in Ankara that Tehran supports the idea of holding further talks in Turkey. Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, recently said he had called on six powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - to resume talks.Turkey, a US ally that relies on Iranian oil and gas imports, signaled Thursday that it will not comply with American sanctions against Iran regarding its nuclear program.Turkey indicated that it will only enforce sanctions that have been approved by the United Nations, and its announcement is a setback to US sanctions aimed at halting what Western governments say is Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons.Turkey said it would evaluate the content of the US sanctions, but Turkey's biggest crude oil importer Tüpraş already has renewed a contract to continue to import crude oil from Iran in 2012. Hmmmm......Ahmadinejad......Erdogan......Obama...Sanctions....What sanctions?Read the full story here.

  • Blast hits home of Gaza terror chief.(Ynet).At least one person was killed in an explosion reported at the Rafah home of a senior terrorist in the Gaza Strip Saturday evening, Palestinian officials said. Adham Abu Salima, a Gaza Health Ministry official, said the house belonged to Popular Resistance Committees Secretary-General Zuheir Qeisi. Five or six Palestinians were wounded in the mysterious explosion, sources in Gaza said.Eyewitnesses said the huge Rafah blast could be heard far away and that the house was completely burned down. The initial explosion was reportedly followed by several smaller blasts. The IDF said it was unfamiliar with the incident. Witnesses said there was no sign of Israeli military activity in the area.The PRC later released a statement saying that Qeisi was not killed in the blast. The group said the explosion was caused by a malfunction and was not a result of an Israeli strike.The Popular Resistance Committees were involved, among other things, in Gilad Shalit's abduction to the Gaza Strip in June 2006. Qeisi himself was interviewed by the al-Hayat newspaper following the Israeli soldier's release and claimed that Shalit was held "in better, more humane conditions than the conditions accorded to prisoners held by Israel."In August of 2011, the IDF killed six PRC members, including the group's military commander, following the terror offensive near Eilat that claimed the lives of eight Israelis. Some of the terrorists killed in the Israeli airstrike were involved in the Shalit abduction. Tensions have been growing in Gaza in recent days, with terror groups sustained several casualties. Late Thursday, IDF tanks opened fire on a terror cell operating east of the al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinian sources said. Medical officials in the Hamas-ruled territory said two people who sustained moderate wounds in the Israeli shelling were evacuated to a hospital in Deir el-Balah.Read the full story here.

  • Qatari emir says Arab troops should enter Syria ‘to stop the killing’.(AlArabiya).The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, said Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop the deadly violence that has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people since an uprising against the regime of President began about 10 months ago.Asked during CBS “60 Minutes” whether Qatar would be in favor of Arab nations intervening in Syria, The Qatari emir said, “For such a situation to stop the killing...some troops should go to stop the killing.”Sheikh Hamad’s statement came amid growing claims that a team of Arab observers dispatched to the country to curb the bloodshed has failed in its mission.Qatar, which once had close relations with Damascus, has been a harsh critic of the 10-month crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s regime. The wealthy and influential Gulf state withdrew its ambassador to Syria in the summer to protest the killings.Arab League observers began work in Syria on Dec. 27 to verify whether the government is abiding by its agreement to end the military crackdown on dissent.But far from bringing a halt to the violence, the mission has coincided with an apparent increase in killings. A U.N. official said Tuesday that about 400 people have been killed in the last three weeks alone, on top of an earlier estimate of more than 5,000 dead since March.Opposition and army defectors meanwhile have increasingly been taking up arms to fight back.On Friday, Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby warned that Syria may be sliding toward civil war. Elaraby said Assad’s regime was either not complying or only partially complying with an Arab League peace plan.The plan calls for removing Syrian heavy weapons from city streets, starting talks with opposition leaders and allowing human rights workers and journalists into the country.On Saturday, Lebanese officials said a man was killed by a bullet coming from the Syrian side of the border. The officials said Lebanese citizen Hassan Obeid, 17, died in a clinic where he was rushed after being hit in the stomach in his northern hometown of Bkarha near the border with Syria.The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to talk to the press. Several Lebanese and Syrian citizens have been killed in border areas in Lebanon since the uprising against Assad began.More than 5,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon during the uprising.In the restive central city of Homs, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, troops at a checkpoint opened fire randomly on Saturday, killing two people.Read the full story here.

  • Iraq PM denounces Turkish ‘interventions’.(AlArabiya).Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki voiced criticism on Friday of Turkish “interventions” in Iraqi affairs, warning that Turkey itself would suffer if its actions sparked conflict in the Middle East.His remarks come amid a political row in Iraq, with authorities charging Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running a death squad. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his concerns over the deadlock to Maliki in a telephone conversation this week.Hashemi, who is currently holed up in Iraq’s Kurdish region, has mooted the possibility of going to Turkey, even though officials have barred him from overseas travel.“We... did not expect the way they (Turkey) interfere in Iraq,” Maliki said in an interview with the al-Hurra satellite television channel on Friday.“Recently, we noticed their surprise interventions with statements, as if Iraq is controlled or run by them.”He continued: “Their latest statements interfered in domestic Iraqi affairs... and we do not allow that absolutely. If it is acceptable to talk about our judicial authority, then we can talk about theirs, and if they talk about our disputes, we can talk about theirs.”Maliki warned that “Turkey is playing a role that might bring disaster and civil war to the region, and Turkey itself will suffer because it has different sects and ethnicities.”Erdogan on Tuesday spoke to Maliki by telephone, voicing concern over Iraq's political stand-off.“Democracy will take a beating if the doubts being felt by partners in the coalition government transform into animosity,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as saying.The Turkish premier also called on political and religious leaders in Iraq to stem sectarian tensions stoked by the festering row.In addition to the charges against Hashemi, Maliki, a Shiite, has called for his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlak to be sacked. In response, Hashemi and Mutlak’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc has largely boycotted parliament and the cabinet.The U.S. and U.N. have urged calm and called for dialogue, but oft-mooted talks involving all of Iraq's main political leaders have yet to take place.Read the full story here.

  • Violence against pilgrims continues in Iraq as suicide bomber kills 50 in Basra.(AlArabiya).A suicide bomber disguised as a policeman killed at least 50 people in an attack that targeted Shiite Muslim pilgrims passing through a checkpoint in Iraq’s southern city of Basra on Saturday, police said. “A terrorist wearing a police uniform and carrying fake police I.D. managed to reach a police checkpoint and blew himself up among police and pilgrims,” said a police official at the scene of the bombing.Riyadh Abdulamir, head of the health department in Basra province, said 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in the 9:00 am (0600 GMT) attack just west of Basra city.Women and children were among the casualties, he said, but did not give further details.The attacker, who had been distributing food to pilgrims walking to the Khutwa Imam Ali, a site on the outskirts of Basra venerated by believers for its associations with one of the key figures of their faith, blew himself up near a police checkpoint.Arbaeen has been a frequent target of militants since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.Scores of people have been killed in attacks on pilgrims in the last few weeks, including a suicide bombing which killed at least 70 people.Many of the attacks on pilgrims have used methods such as suicide bombings that are the signature of Iraq’s al-Qaeda affiliate.Attacks targeting Shiites have also killed dozens of people since Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government issued an arrest warrant for a Sunni vice president, triggering a political crisis that risks scuttling a power-sharing agreement.Attacks had ebbed since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007 when thousands were killed in intercommunal violence among Shiite and Sunni. But the withdrawal of the last American troops in December has fanned worries of a spike in violence.Read and see (Video) the full story here.

  • Israel issues warning against travel to Bangkok.(JPost).The Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued Friday a "severe travel warning" to nationals, advising against travel to Bangkok "in the near future", and to "avoid congregating at known spots favored by Israelis, watch out for suspect items and not to accept packages from strangers in Bangkok."Thai authorities arrested a Lebanese suspect after being warned by Israel of a possible attack in Bangkok, Thailand's deputy prime minister said on Friday, adding that police had stepped up security and he was confident the situation was under control."A Lebanese suspect from the Hezbollah group has been taken into custody by Thai officials and police are investigating further," Chalerm Yoobamrung told Reuters."Following concern raised by the Israeli embassy about a possible attack by a group of Lebanese terrorists in Bangkok, Thai police officials had been coordinating with Israeli officials since before the New Year."Thailand's Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha said Thai and US intelligence officials were monitoring the movements of other individuals and were stepping up precautions in areas deemed to be at risk such as tourist sites and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.A defense ministry source said Israeli intelligence had contacted Thai officials on December 22 with information that two or three suspects could be planning an attack in Thailand. However, the individuals traveled to the south and left the country.The Israelis alerted Thai officials again on January 8 of the danger of an attack around January 13 to 15 in areas where there are often large concentrations of Western tourists, such as the Khao San Road, which is popular with young backpackers.The arrest was made after the second Israeli warning, the source said, adding that Thai security officials were working closely with the United States and Israel.Defense Minister Yuthasak said the Israeli embassy and synagogues could also be targeted and that the attacks could come in the form of car bombs."Thai officials had not intended to release the news at this time since it could have an impact on tourism and cause panic among citizens," he said, noting that the US embassy naturally was concerned about the safety of Americans.Earlier, the US embassy had warned of a possible attack by "foreign terrorists" and told its citizens to be careful in areas of the capital frequented by tourists."We're warning all US citizens to take caution when visiting public areas where Western tourists are known to gather in Bangkok," said Walter Braunohler, a spokesman at the embassy, declining to give further details.Bangkok, a magnet for tourists with its vibrant nightlife and a transit point for those heading for Thailand's beaches, has gone through periods of violent political turmoil in recent years but threats of foreign attacks are rare.Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Islamist group in Lebanon backed by Syria and Iran, is on the official US blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations.Read the full story here.

  • Islamist ‘Morality Police’ to train volunteers in using electric batons.(Ahram Online) — The self-proclaimed Islamist “Morality Police” announced on its new official Facebook page that it has acquired 1,000 tazers to be distributed to volunteers who will promote “virtue” and combat “vice” in the Egyptian street.The “Morality Police”, which models itself on a similar group in Saudi Arabia that monitors citizens social behaviour, added in its announcement that these electric shocks batons will help in self-defence against any possible attacks on volunteers, adding that volunteers would be instructed to use the tazers only in “extremely necessary” situations.The Facebook page announced that the first field training session for volunteers will be on Thursday evening in El-Mandara neighbourhood in Alexandria.Meanwhile, Suez Port authorities announced last week that they foiled an attempt to smuggle in 1,000 tazers while it was not clear who the shipment was intended to reach.Islamist and organised Salafist forces such as the Nour Party have distanced themselves from the “Morality Police” group, which has so far only operated in cyberspace.Hmmmm.....Shocking....really Shocking news.Read the full story here.

  • Antisemitic and Anti-Israel Articles on Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Website.(Memri).The website of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt,, contains articles with antisemitic motifs, including Holocaust denial and descriptions of the "Jewish character" as covetous, exploitative, and a source of evil in human society. While articles of this tenor have been posted on the site in the past, their posting has recently taken on greater importance in light of the group's increasing strength following the ouster of the Mubarak regime, as reflected by the results of the recent parliamentary elections.In addition to antisemitic content, articles on the site also include praise for jihad and martyrdom, and condemnation of negotiation as a means of regaining Islamic lands. Among these are articles calling to kill Zionists and praising the September 9, 2011 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo – which one article called a landmark of the Egyptian revolution. Some senior officials in the MB's Freedom and Justice party published articles on the site expressing reservations regarding the peace agreement with Israel and insisting that Egypt was entitled to amend it. Such statements contradict assurances by Freedom and Justice party head Dr. Muhammad Mursi to senior U.S. officials that the MB would honor all international agreements signed by Egypt.This paper will present excerpts of articles posted on the MB site, dated both before and after the revolution.
  1. MB: The Jewish Character Is Still a Source of Evil in the World.
  2. Articles on MB Website Deny Holocaust, Accuse U.S. of Fabricating "Tale" of Jewish Extermination.
  3. In Praise of Jihad and Martyrdom, Against Negotiations.
  4.  Wishing for the Destruction of the State of Israel.Hmmmm.......Obama's administration their  'buddies'.Read the full story here.

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