Politics and Legislation
Wisconsin Governor recall vote could make history
Published on May 25, 2012 by RTAmerica
Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker made headlines last year for busting up state unions. Walker’s attack on collective bargaining rights caused a seventeen day occupation of the state capital which led to a recall election against Walker. In two weeks Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to choose between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett. Ian Murphy, editor at BuffaloBeast.com, joins us with more.
Inside Story – A showdown between old and new in Egypt
Published on May 26, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
In Egypt, with almost 50 per cent of those eligible to vote said to have taken part, who have the majority voted for?
Is the battle between the Egyptian old guard and those who fought it for decades still continuing? And what has happened to a revolution that promised to strip away all remnants of what many regarded as the oppressive Mubarak regime?
To what extent do these preliminary results reveal a country bitterly divided? Are the major forces in Egyptian society coming up against each other?
Keiser Report: Reform = Crime To Favor Wall St. Crooks (E293)
Published on May 26, 2012 by RussiaToday
In this episode, Max Keiser and co-host, Stacy Herbert, discuss the 99% knocking on Timmy Geithner’s door looking for ‘reform’ of criminal behavior. In the second half of the show Max talks to independent video journalist, Luke Rudkowski, about livestreaming to the world from a smartphone and his recent work covering the NATO summit in Chicago.
U.S. asks judge to undo ruling against military detention law
The government says indefinite military detention without trial is justified in some cases involving militants and their supporters.
But critics worry that the law is unclear and gives the Executive Branch sole discretion to decide who and what type of activities can be considered as supporting militants.
The judge’s preliminary injunction bars the government from enforcing section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act‘s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions.
The section authorizes indefinite military detention for those deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”
In a brief filed in New York late on Friday, the government said the plaintiffs in this particular case had nothing to fear.
Propaganda firm owner admits attacks on journalists
By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – The co-owner of a major Pentagon propaganda contractor publicly admitted Thursday that he was behind a series of websites used in an attempt to discredit two USA TODAY journalists who had reported on the contractor.
Camille Chidiac, a minority owner of Leonie Industries, says he acted independently of the company when he created websites and social media accounts in an effort to discredit two USA TODAY journalists.
The online “misinformation campaign,” first reported last month, has raised questions about whether the Pentagon or its contractors had turned its propaganda operations against U.S. citizens. But Camille Chidiac, the minority owner of Leonie Industries and its former president, said he was responsible for the online activity and was operating independently of the company and the Pentagon.
“I take full responsibility for having some of the discussion forums opened and reproducing their previously published USA TODAY articles on them,” he said in a statement released by his Atlanta attorney, Lin Wood.
“I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie,” Chidiac said.
Chidiac, who stepped down as president of Leonie in 2008, said he used only personal funds to create the websites, using proxy services to hide his involvement. Although Chidiac has continued to represent Leonie at various conferences, the company said any involvement was “informal and unofficial.”
The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was aware of the statement and “has directed the department to review this matter and to take appropriate action.”
“We were deeply disappointed to read this disclosure from Leonie Industries. Smear campaigns — online or anywhere else — are intolerable, and we reject this kind of behavior,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said.
In February, USA TODAY reported on the Pentagon’s “information operations” program, which was coming under criticism even within the Pentagon for spending hundreds of millions for poorly monitored marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Legislation may enable states to offer universal healthcare
A number of studies have concluded that state-run insurance systems would be cheaper for most people on an out-of-pocket basis than existing private insurance plans. (Chris O’Meara, Associated Press / April 27, 2012)
Universal coverage, Medicare for all, single payer — call it what you will. It’s clear that conservative forces are determined to prevent such a system from ever being introduced at the national level. So it’s up to the states.
The catch is that to make universal coverage work at the state level, you’d need some way to channel Medicare, Medicaid and other federal healthcare funds into the system. At the moment, that’s difficult if not impossible.
But legislation quietly being drafted by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) would change that. It would create a mechanism for states to request federal funds after establishing their own health insurance programs.
If passed into law — admittedly a long shot with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives — McDermott’s State-Based Universal Healthcare Act would represent a game changer for medical coverage in the United States.
It would, for the first time, create a system under which a Medicare-for-all program could be rolled out on a state-by-state basis. In California’s case, it would make coverage available to the roughly 7 million people now lacking health insurance.
“This is a huge deal,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. “This is a lifeline for people who want to create a Medicare system at the state level.”
I learned of McDermott’s bill after getting my hands on documents he had sent to other members of Congress seeking support for the legislation.
McDermott’s office confirmed that the documents and legislation are real but declined to make the congressman available for comment until the bill is formally introduced, which could happen as soon as next week.
Kinsey Kiriakos, a spokesman for McDermott, said by email that the bill is intended to advance the goals of President Obama‘s healthcare reform law, which would extend coverage to about 30 million of the 50 million people nationwide without insurance.
The reform law is now under scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court, primarily because of its requirement that most people buy health insurance or face a modest tax penalty.
McDermott’s bill “is based on the congressman’s belief that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld and the congressman’s new bill is meant to achieve the overall goals of the Affordable Care Act while giving states the option to build an alternative single-payer system,” Kiriakos said.
California came close to building such a system in 2006 and again in 2008 when the Legislature passed bills laying the groundwork for statewide universal coverage. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both bills.
Congress votes down Sen. Durbin’s anti-supplement amendment, as well as Sen. Paul’s freedom of health speech amendment
Runoff could take Egypt’s voters on one of two very different paths
Khaled Desouki / AFP – Getty Images
Egyptian election officials count ballots at a polling station in Cairo on Thursday after polls closed in the country’s landmark presidential vote.
CAIRO – Hundreds of thousands of people throng the streets. The crowds furiously demand an end to nepotism and corruption and all the unemployment and injustice they create. The protesters rally behind a slogan that is also a deeply held conviction: Islam will make things better. Islam will bring justice.
That was Iran in 1979. The revolution was popular at the time. We all know how well it turned out. Iranian’s Islamic revolutionaries became ever more zealous and bellicose. They stormed the American Embassy in Tehran and held 66 Americans hostage for over a year. Iran has been a pariah ever since.
An Iranian friend told me today that when older Iranians in Tehran watch what’s happening in Egypt now, they say, “It looks like what we went through. The same thing is happening.”
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, banned for 80 years, appears to be in the lead in the country’s first ever free election. The group has staged mass rallies. The group’s slogan is “Islam is the solution.” If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt, the changes could be as profound for this country and the region as they were for Iran.
This is where things stand now. On May 23-24, Egyptians voted. There were more than a dozen candidates, among them five with the potential of winning.
As of a preliminary, still-unofficial counting, it appears there will be a runoff election between the two top contenders of the first vote. The runoff will take place June 16-17. The two candidates couldn’t be more different: former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohammed Mursi. Whoever wins will take the country down one of two very different paths.
Supreme Court Is OK with US$ 675,000 Copyright Fine for 30 Songs
Supreme Court Lets Stand Student’s $675,000 Penalty For Downloading … Without commenting on the merits of the case, the Supreme Court this morning let stand a $675,000 jury verdict against a 25-year-old Boston University student who downloaded 30 songs nearly a decade ago and then shared them with others on a peer-to-peer network. The court denied Joel Tenenbaum’s “write of certiorari,” which means his appeal of a lower court’s ruling and the judgment were turned down. – NPR
Dominant Social Theme: A good thing, too. Copying intellectual property is stealing.
Free-Market Analysis: So now Joel Tenenbaum owes US$ 675,000 for downloading 30 songs. One can argue that those who believe they are wronged by Tenenbaum ought to pursue him and others.
But let them do it with their own resources. This is a fundamental prerogative of private justice. If you feel you are wronged, you have the right to redress. Only use your own money and resources.
And good luck to you.
The modern system of monopoly justice pioneered by the West is a variant of more nakedly projected power in less complex environments. Strip away the veneer of “judicial talk” and the results are the same. Those in power enforce their will.
In such a justice system, the state itself passes the laws and hires the prosecutors, judges and even the defense. The jails are paid for by the state along with the guards and probation officers. The police, sheriffs and various law enforcement resources are all funded by the state.
The argument is that in a democracy citizens themselves determine the course of the state. This might be true if a small group of dynastic families did not – apparently – control central banking around the world.
But access to this money has evidently allowed a small group of individuals to shape Western society in a certain way while aiming for world government.
Part of this effort involves configuring justice so that it emphasizes – and encourages – global government. This is done by configuring “justice” so that it has a bias toward bigness.
Private justice is simple and restrained mostly to the individuals involved in a quarrel. There is no end to the size that public justice can take.
Rebekah Brooks, head of Rupert Murdoch’s press empire, has been under investigation of hacking – and no fewer than 100 officers are pursuing the case, which is according to Brooks the size of seven murder investigations.
But then, the Murdoch phone hacking scandal has been blown up by the elite-controlled press in Britain with constant coverage. This is how the elites work. They use the power of public justice to reinforce certain dominant social themes.
In this case it is very likely that the outcome of the phone hacking scandal will be precedents that make the press less independent.
S&P Cuts Five Spanish Bank Ratings
Published on May 25, 2012 by IBTimesTV
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut the ratings on five Spanish banks on Friday (May 25), another blow to the country’s ailing banking sector as the nation’s deteriorating finances rattle global investors.
Spain’s banks, awash in bad loans after a real estate boom went bust, are at the heart of the euro zone debt crisis because markets fear a state bailout would put a severe strain on the country’s already stretched public finances.
Last month S&P cut its credit rating on Spain by two notches, citing expectations that the government finances will worsen even more than previously thought
Spain relapsed into an economic recession in the first quarter and likely faces a prolonged slump as the government tries to shrink its budget deficit by slashing spending.
The Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has increasingly come under fire from labour unions over a labour reform they oppose and also from the electorate in general over cuts in public services – mainly to education and health.
Bankia needs further massive bailout
Published on May 25, 2012 by Euronews
Shares in Spain’s Bankia were suspended on Friday as it was set to ask the government for a more than 15 billion euro bailout.
That would take the total cost of rescuing the country’s fourth-biggest bank to around 20 billion euros.
The state bailout is needed because Bankia is stuck with billions in property loans that are never going to be repaid as well as repossessed homes.
The markets are worried about how big Bankia’s black hole really is and concerned about Spain’s entire banking sector.
Chris Scicluna, Head of Economic Research at Daiwa Capital Markets said: “The Spanish economy is under significant stress, and that stress is only going to get greater what ever happens in Greece.”
He added: “There is probably several years to come of adjustment in the Spanish property sector, in terms of the extent of which house prices have to fall, the extent of bad debts to be realised in the banks.”
Bankia is one of the worst examples, but investors remain unconvinced that a slew of clean-ups and rescues has fully addressed Spanish banks’ problems.
Under pressure from the European Union, the government has now hired independent auditors to try to work out how bad things are.
More money for failed banks is bound to anger austerity-numbed Spaniards who protest on an almost daily basis outside financial institutions and government offices.
Inside Facebook’s IPO: From Darling to Disaster – Decoder
Published on May 25, 2012 by ReutersTV
It seemed the perfect combination. Social phenomenon Facebook taken public by white shoe firm Morgan Stanley on the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Instead, it turned into an embarrassment. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the fumbled IPO. (May 25, 2012)
The Government is drawing up plans for emergency immigration controls to curb an influx of Greeks and other European Union residents if the euro collapses, the Home Secretary discloses today.
By Robert Winnett, and James Kirkup
In an interview in The Daily Telegraph, Theresa May says “work is ongoing” to restrict European immigration in the event of a financial collapse.
People from throughout the EU, with the exception of new member countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, are able to work anywhere in the single market.
However, there are growing concerns that if Greece was forced to leave the euro, it would effectively go bankrupt and millions could lose their jobs and consider looking for work abroad.
The crisis could spread quickly to other vulnerable countries such as Spain, Ireland and Portugal, although Britain is regarded as a safe haven because it is outside the single currency.
Details of the contingency plan emerged as the euro crisis deepened further yesterday.
Catalonia was forced to turn to the Spanish government for a bail-out and speculation mounted that Bankia, the troubled Spanish bank, would need £15 billion in state support. European markets fell again as the euro dropped in value against other major currencies.
The Home Secretary says that the Government is already “looking at the trends” to determine whether immigration from beleaguered European countries is increasing. While there is no evidence of increased migration at present, she adds that it is “difficult to say how it is going to develop in coming weeks”.
On the subject of whether emergency immigration controls are under consideration, Mrs May says: “It is right that we do some contingency planning on this [and] that is work that is ongoing.”
The introduction of immigration controls within the EU would undermine a key part of the single market. However, it is allowed in “exceptional” circumstances under European law.
Controls are most likely to include restrictions on people seeking to work in Britain, who could be made to apply for visas.
Several European governments introduced temporary immigration controls when countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic joined the EU, to stop an influx of workers. France also threatened to reintroduce passport controls at the Italian border following an influx of Libyan and Tunisian refugees during the Arab Spring.
David Cameron has already said that Britain has made contingency plans to deal with the break-up of the single currency.
They involve preparations to evacuate Britons from Greece if civil disobedience spirals out of control, and for banks to take steps to protect
London will this week host a private global summit on the world financial crisis amid mounting pressure on eurozone economies.
No agenda has been published and there will be no communique issued afterwards.
‘It is a private, off-the-record meeting,’ said a source.
In the past two days, Spain’s fourth biggest lender, Bankia, said it needed a 19 billion euros (£15 billion) bailout and the prosperous region of Catalonia warned that it needed more funding from Madrid.
The yield on Spanish government bonds – the government’s likely cost of borrowing – jumped to 6.3 per cent, a figure widely regarded as unsustainable.
The summit will be dominated by central bankers including the host, Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, have been invited.
The eurozone is paralysed as it awaits the outcome of elections in Greece on June 17.
The left-wing Syriza party is leading in the polls and is pledged to reject austerity.Hawks led by Germany insist that Greece must stand by the cuts programme if it is to keep receiving bailout money. Greece might have to exit from the euro.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, also struck a uncompromising stance this weekend, saying she had little sympathy for Greeks who did not pay their taxes and said the country needed to stick to its austerity package.
Meanwhile, banknote printer De La Rue releases full-year results on Tuesday. Its shares have jumped as Greece may soon need drachmas.
The chief executive of the multi-billion pound Lloyd’s of London has publicly admitted that the world’s leading insurance market is prepared for a collapse in the single currency and has reduced its exposure “as much as possible” to the crisis-ridden continent.
By Andrew Cave
Richard Ward said the London market had put in place a contingency plan to switch euro underwriting to multi-currency settlement if Greece abandoned the euro.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph he also revealed that Lloyd’s could have to take writedowns on its £58.9bn investment portfolio if the eurozone collapses.
Europe accounts for 18pc of Lloyd’s £23.5bn of gross written premiums, mostly in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The market also has a fledgling operation in Poland.
Lloyd’s move comes as a major Franco-German provider of credit insurance for eurozone trade, Euler Hermes, said it was considering reducing cover for trade with Greece because of the risk the country might leave the eurozone.
When a company goes bust, it is often sparked by withdrawal of credit insurance for suppliers wanting to trade with it.
A spokesman for Euler Hermes, Bettina Sattler, told Bloomberg: “The outcome of the new elections in June remains highly uncertain. Consequently, the situation is further deteriorating. The risk of Greece exiting the eurozone has been revived.
“In light of the recent developments, Euler Hermes will most probably have to switch to a more prudent approach. [We have] maintained a high level of cover for [our] customers until today. But now we are confronted with a changing situation.”
Lloyd’s fears are likely to be shared by a number of European businesses, which are watching developments in Greece.
On Saturday, Juergen Fitschen, co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, described Greece as a “failed state” run by corrupt politicians.
“I’m quite worried about Europe,” Mr Ward said in one of the first admissions by a major UK business leader of the scale of the crisis that would be prompted by a eurozone collapse.
“With all the concerns around the eurozone at the moment, we’ve got to be careful doing business in Europe and there are a lot of question marks over writing business in the future in euros.
“I don’t think that if Greece exited the euro it would lead to the collapse of the eurozone, but what we need to do is prepare for that eventuality.”
Mr Ward says Lloyd’s had been working hard on contingency planning and had the capability to switch settlement of European underwriting from euros to other currencies.
“We’ve got multi-currency functionality and we would switch to multi-currency settlement if the Greeks abandoned the euro and started using the drachma again,” he said.
Lloyd’s has de-risked its asset portfolio in recent years, with investments split equally into cash, corporate bonds and government bonds, mostly in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. “We have de-risked the asset portfolio as much as possible,” he said.
The contingency planning comes as German politicians piled the pressure on Greece ahead of elections on June 17.
A conservative member of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet said today Germany would not “pour money into a bottomless pit”.
Until a few weeks ago very few people had heard of him, but Alexis Tsipras could soon be the next Prime Minister of Greece. His anti-austerity stance won his party second place in the recent election, and the forecasts for next month’s run-off suggest they could do even better.
Leftist tipped to be next Greek leader warns of ‘Cold War’ over austerity
A radical leftist tipped to become Greece’s next prime minister says his country is involved in a “Cold War” over austerity measures with Germany and the U.K.
In an interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4 News, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party, said countries insisting on austerity measures in exchange bailout funds would not dare throw Greece out of the euro currency because that would cause a domino effect, plunging states like Italy into crisis.
“The problem is not a Greek problem, it’s a European problem,” he said. “If Greece goes outside … the eurozone, the second day, the next day, the markets will try and find who will be the next. And the next is Italy with 1.9 trillion euros debt, not like Greece, we have only 350 billion euros [debt].
Economic powerhouse Germany has been insisting on austerity policies to cut government debts as part of the price of economic help.
But the 37-year-old Tsipras, whose party is currently leading the polls on 30 percent ahead of the June 17 election, said Germany and countries taking a similar stance would back down.
Wars and Rumors of War
War Medals of Dishonor thrown out
Published on May 25, 2012 by RTAmerica
RT’s Anastasia Churkina speaks to U.S. veterans who feel betrayed by the system that pushed them into fighting America’s false-pretense wars, as the former soldiers throw out their medals which they deem symbols of lies.
Opium Wonderland Afghan Style
More opium/heroin comes out of Afghanistan now than ever has before.
Since the beginning of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in 2001,
heroin use has skyrocketed here at home and worldwide.
Russian arms shipment en route to Syria: report
(Reuters) – A Russian cargo ship loaded with weapons is en route to Syria and due to arrive at a Syrian port this weekend, Al Arabiya television said in a report that Western diplomats in New York described on Friday as credible.
Syria is one of Russia’s top weapons customers. The United States and European Union have suggested the U.N. Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other U.N. sanctions on Syria for its 14-month assault on a pro-democracy opposition determined to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But Russia, with the support of fellow veto power China, has prevented the council from imposing any U.N. sanctions on Syria and has refused to halt arms sales to Damascus.
“Al Arabiya have learned that a Russian cargo ship carrying a large amount of weapons plans to unload its cargo in the Syrian port of Tartus,” the broadcaster said on its website on Thursday.
The report said the ship left a Russian port on May 6 and cited a “Western source” as saying that it will dock at Tartus on Saturday.
“The ship is trying to conceal its final destination in a suspicious way,” Al Arabiya said.
Western diplomats and officials said the report was credible.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had seen reports of countries supplying arms to the government and rebels. He urged states not to arm either side in the Syrian conflict.
“Those who may contemplate supporting any side with weapons, military training or other military assistance, must reconsider such options to enable a sustained cessation of violence,” he said.
Read Full Article Here
By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press
BEIRUT (AP) — Gruesome video Saturday showed rows of dead Syrian children lying in a mosque in bloody shorts and T-shirts with gaping head wounds, haunting images of what activists called one of the deadliest regime attacks yet in Syria’s 14-month-old uprising.
The shelling attack on Houla, a group of villages northwest of the central city of Homs, killed more than 90 people, including at least 32 children under the age of 10, the head of the U.N. observer team in Syria said.
The attacks sparked outrage from U.S. and other international leaders, and large protests in the suburbs of Syria’s capital of Damascus and its largest city, Aleppo. It also renewed fears of the relevance of a month-old international peace plan that has not stopped almost daily violence.
The U.N. denounced the attacks in a statement that appeared to hold President Bashar Assad’s regime responsible, and the White House called the violence acts of “unspeakable and inhuman brutality.”
“This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and international envoy Kofi Annan. “Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account.”
More than a dozen amateur videos posted online Saturday gave glimpses of the carnage, showing lines of bodies laid out in simple rooms, many with bloody faces, torsos and limbs. In some places, residents put chunks of ice on the bodies to preserve them until burial.
One two-minute video shows at least a dozen children lined up shoulder to shoulder on a checkered blanket on what appears to be the floor of a mosque. Blood trickled from one girl’s mouth. One boy, appearing to be no more than 8, had his jaw blown off. The video shows flowered blankets and rugs covering several rows of other bodies.
Another video posted Saturday showed a mass grave, four bodies wide and dozens of meters (yards) long.
Activists from Houla said Saturday that regime forces peppered the area with mortars after large demonstrations against the regime on Friday. That evening, they said, pro-regime fighters known as shabiha stormed the villages, gunning down men in the streets and stabbing women and children in their homes.
A local activist reached via Skype said regime forces fired shells at Houla, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Homs. The shabiha entered the villages, raiding homes and shooting at civilians, Abu Yazan said. More than 100 people were killed, more than 40 of them children and most of them in the village of Taldaw, he said. Many had stab wounds, another activist said.
“They killed entire families, from parents on down to children, but they focused on the children,” Yazan said.
The Syrian government blamed the killings on “armed terrorist groups” — a term it often uses for the opposition — but provided no details or death toll.
But like U.N. officials, the White House issued a statement directed at the regime.
The U.S. is “horrified” by the Houla attacks, National Security Council spokeswoman Erin Pelton said in a statement. “These acts serve as a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality.”
U.N. observers, among more than 250 who were dispatched in recent weeks to salvage the cease-fire plan, found spent artillery tank shells at the site Saturday, and U.N. officials confirmed the shells were fired at residential neighborhoods. The head of the team, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, called the attack a “brutal tragedy.”
The bloodshed is yet another blow to the international peace plan brokered by Annan and cast a pall over his coming visit to check on the plan’s progress. The cease-fire between forces loyal to the regime of Assad and rebels seeking to topple it was supposed to start on April 12 but has never really taken hold, with new killings every day.
The U.N. put the death toll weeks ago at more than 9,000. Hundreds have been killed since.
The grisly images were condemned by anti-regime groups and political leaders around the world.
“With these new crimes, this murderous regime pushes Syria further into horror and threatens regional stability,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement Saturday.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released an unusually harsh statement, saying Arab nations and the international community were “partners” in the killing “because of their silence about the massacres that the Syrian regime has committed.”
The Houla villages are Sunni Muslim. The forces came from an arc of nearby villages populated by Alawites, members of the offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs, the activists said.
The activists said the Houla killings appeared to be sectarian between the two groups, raising fears that Syria’s uprising, which started in March 2011 with protests calling for political reform, is edging closer to the type of war that tore apart Syria’s eastern neighbor, Iraq.
“I don’t like to talk about sectarianism, but it was clear that this was sectarian hatred,” said activist Abu Walid.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 96 people were killed, 26 of them children and four of them army defectors.
The group’s head, Rami Abdul-Rahman, who relies on activists inside Syria, said all were killed in shelling, but that no forces entered Houla.
Syrian state TV condemned the opposition groups for the “massacre” in a statement Saturday.
“The armed groups are escalating their massacres against the Syrian people only days before international envoy Kofi Annan’s visit in a bid to defeat his plan and a political solution to the crisis and with the aim of exploiting the blood of Syrians in the media bazar,” it said.
The videos could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from operating inside the country.
The harsh condemnation from anti-regime groups reflects their growing frustration with international reluctance to intervene in Syria’s conflict.
World powers have fallen in behind the U.N. plan. The U.S. and European nations say they will not intervene militarily, and while Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya have said they will arm Syria’s rebels, no country is known to be doing so.
A spokeswoman for the opposition Syrian National Council called on the U.N. Security Council “to examine the situation in Houla and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings, expulsions and forced migration from entire neighborhoods.”
Also Saturday, the story of 11 Lebanese Shiites who were reported kidnapped in Syria this week took another strange turn.
Lebanese officials first said their expected arrival on a plane from Turkey to Lebanon late Friday was delayed for “logistical reasons.”
On Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denied the men were in Turkey — raising new questions about their fate.
Lebanese and Syrian officials blamed Syrian rebels for Tuesday’s kidnapping. No group has claimed responsibility.
Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley in Paris, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Anne Gearan in Washington, Frank Jordans in Geneva and Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey, contributed reporting.
VIENNA: Iranhas significantly stepped up its output of low-enriched uranium and total production in the last five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons if refined much further, a US security institute said.The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a think-tank which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear programme, made the analysis on the basis of data in the latest quarterly UNwatchdog report which was issued on Friday.Progress in Iran’s nuclear activities is closely watched by the West and Israel as it could determine how long it could take Tehran to build atomic bombs, if it decided to do so. Iran denies any plan to and says its aims are entirely peaceful.
During talks in Baghdad this week, six world powers failed to convince Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment programme. They will meet again in Moscow next month to try to defuse a decade-old standoff that has raised fears of a new war in the Middle East that could disrupt oil supplies.
Friday’s report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a Vienna-based UN body, showed Iran pressing ahead with its uranium enrichment work in defiance of UN resolutions calling on it to suspend the activity.
It said Iran had produced almost 6.2 tonnes of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent since it began the work in 2007 – some of which has subsequently been further processed into higher-grade material.
“This total amount of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons,” ISIS said in its analysis.
It added, however, that some of Iran’s higher-grade uranium had been converted into reactor fuel and would not be available for nuclear weapons, at least not quickly.
Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants, which is Iran’s stated purpose, or to provide material for bombs, if refined to a much higher degree. The West suspects that may be Iran’s ultimate goal despite the Islamic Republic’s denials.
Iran began enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent in 2010, saying it needed this to fuel a medical research reactor. It later expanded the work sharply by launching enrichment at an underground site, Fordow.
It alarmed a suspicious West since such enhanced enrichment accomplishes much of the technical leap towards 90 percent – or weapons-grade – uranium.
The IAEA report said Iran had installed more than 50 percent more enrichment centrifuges at Fordow, which is buried deep under rock and soil to protect it against any enemy attacks.
Although not yet being fed with uranium, the new machines could be used to further boost Iran’s output of uranium enriched to 20 percent.
ISIS said Iran still appeared to be experiencing problems in its testing of production-scale units of more advanced centrifuges that would allow it to refine uranium faster, even though it had made some progress.
UN Security Council condemns Syria massacre that left more than 100 dead
U.S. officials say that dozens of people, including children, were killed by Syrian government forces in the central town of Houla. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. Warning: Some of the images are disturbing.
Updated at 6:01 p.m. ET — The U.N. Security Council on Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for heavy-weapons attacks on the town of Houla, the site of a massacre of at least 108 people, including many children, the council president said.
“The Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of (Houla), near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood,” the non-binding statement said.
“The Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse,” said the statement, which was read out after the council’s three-hour emergency meeting by Azerbaijan’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Tofig Musayev.
Facing mounting international outrage over the killings, Syria earlier on Sunday accused rebels of carrying out the massacre.
Images of bloodied and lifeless young bodies, lain carefully side by side after the onslaught on Friday, triggered shock around the world and underlined the failure of a six-week-old U.N. cease-fire plan to stop the violence.
Syrian authorities blamed “terrorists” for the massacre, among the worst carnage in the 14-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which has cost about 10,000 lives.
“Women, children and old men were shot dead. This is not the hallmark of the heroic Syrian army,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdesi told reporters in Damascus.
Makdesi said Syrian security forces were in their local bases Friday when they were attacked by “hundreds of heavily armed gunmen” firing mortars, heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles, staring a nine-hour battle that killed three soldiers and wounded 16.
Opposition activists said Assad’s forces shelled Houla after a protest and then clashed with fighters from the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency.
Activists say Assad’s ‘shabbiha’ militia, loyal to an establishment dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect, then hacked dozens of the victims to death, or shot them.
Maysara al-Hilawi said he saw the bodies of six children and their parents in a ransacked house in the town.
“The Abdelrazzak family house was the first one I entered. The children’s corpses were piled on top of each other, either with their throats cut or shot at close range,” Hilawi, an opposition activist, said by telephone from the area.
“I helped collect more than 100 bodies in the last two days, mostly women and children. The last were six members of the al-Kurdi family. A father and his five kids. The mother is missing,” he said.
Mexican Troops Commit Crimes with US Support. The DEA Hears No Evil.
The State Department report on human rights says that U.S.-trained security forces in Mexico have “engaged in unlawful killings, forced disappearances, and instances of physical abuse and torture” in the U.S.-led war on drugs. Mike Riggs at Reason contacted the DEA looking for some sort of statement. Here is the email exchange:
Riggs: The State Department recently released a report on human rights abuses in Mexico. That report found that Mexican military and LEOs ”engaged in unlawful killings, forced disappearances, and instances of physical abuse and torture” while fighting TCOs.
I was wondering if your office could provide me with a statement about the new report in light of Administrator Michele Leonhart’s earlier claim, made to the Washington Post, in which she said, “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs….[cartels] are like caged animals, attacking one another,” as it seems cartels are not the only people in Mexico committing violence.
DEA: We will let the State Department and Mexico speak to this rather than us
Riggs: If the DEA won’t comment on the report, can you at least tell me if Administrator Leonhart stands by her claim that the “the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success” in the war on drugs?
DEA: She has been consistent that the violence represents the pressure cartels feel from Mexican law enforcement/military and the U.S.
Riggs: But [she] has no comment on violence perpetrated by DEA partners in Mexican military and law enforcement?
It’s important to point out that Mexican security forces have been committing crimes with U.S. backing for some time now. And it is well known. Human Rights Watch back in November of last year released a report providing evidence that Mexico’s security forces participated in “more than 170 cases of torture, 39 ‘disappearances,’ and 24 extrajudicial killings since Calderón took office in December 2006.” And these are just what they could confirm.
As Commandos Raid Tampa, US State Dept Demands Power to Declare War?
Clinton Goes Commando, Sells Diplomats as Shadow Warriors … Clinton, wearing pearls and a silver and black blouse, climbed the stage and began to speak. And soon it all made more sense. She had an idea to sell — and to defend … She described a vision in which shadowy U.S. and allied Special Operations Forces, working hand in hand with America’s embassies and foreign governments, together play a key role in preventing low-intensity conflicts. And where prevention fails, the same commando-diplomat team goes on the attack … – Wired (5/24/12)
It happened again at the recent Tampa-based conference, “Building the Global SOF Partnership” …
The US military staged a mock drill in violation of 130+ years of the Posse Comitatus Act that bars domestic forces from active use on US soil.
It wasn’t just the US, either. Some 90 nations supposedly participated in the drill, which aimed to “rescue” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, supposedly kidnapped by terrorists. There were helicopters overhead and a tactical assault showed up by water. Then special ops teams invaded a “terrorist village” near the Convention Center and rescued the mayor, who said he was grateful.
The ongoing militarization of all phases of US society via Homeland Security searches and military training exercises surely should be of concern to those who are searching for a less warlike and aggressive United States.
But the pendulum apparently continues to swing in the other direction. While the mock drill received a lot of attention in the alternative media, statements of the guest of honor, Hillary Clinton, are worthy of equivalent concern.
The Secretary of State seemed to inform the conference that the State Department now had the unilateral authority to declare a limited state of war via an expanding liaison with US Special Operations Forces. Here are some direct quotes:
… We created a new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations that is working to put into practice lessons learned over the past decade and institutionalize a civilian surge capacity to deal with crises and hotspots.
Articles of Interest
Mosaic News : Israeli Protestors Attack African Migrants in Tel Aviv
Published on May 25, 2012 by linktv
Israeli protestors attack African migrants in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International slams human rights violations in Arab Spring countries, dozens killed across Syria as new parliament holds first session, and more.
Today’s headlines in full:
Israeli protestors attack African migrants in Tel Aviv
Al Jazeera, Qatar
Amnesty International slams human rights violations in Arab Spring countries
BBC Arabic, UK
Dozens killed across Syria as new parliament holds first session
Future TV, Lebanon
Iran, P5+1 meet again in Baghdad
Press TV, Iran
Egyptians vote on second and final day of landmark election
Are Egypt’s elections truly democratic?
Hezbollah chief pleads for calm after Free Syrian Army abducts Lebanese pilgrims
Netanyahu postpones right-wing bill to legalize West Bank outposts
Concerns rise over ongoing crises across Arab world
Algérie TV, Algeria
Guinea-Bissau: Military council to return power to civilians
Algerie TV, Algeria
Image: A Sudanese migrant stands in a rented shelter in Tel Aviv February 20, 2012: REUTERS/Nir Elias
Mosaic is a Peabody Award-winning daily compilation of television news reports from the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq and Iran. Watch more Mosaic at
Iceland: Strives to Be Info Freedom Haven
Published on May 25, 2012 by TheAlyonaShow
From subpoenas that contain gag orders to hand over information on Twitter users, to this business of forcing services like Skype to have a backdoor for the feds, there’s a lot of fear about whether or not maintaining web anonymity, or even protected free speech, will become relics of the past. But, that’s unless Iceland has something to do with it. Smari McCarthy, executive director of the International Modern Media Institute joins the show.
Mark Dankof’s America: America hijacked
Published on May 26, 2012 by ravenise00
Mark’s topic today–America hijacked–Foreign policy decisions being made by a foreign power-Israel–that have disasterous consequences for every human being on the planet.
This and other relevant issues
Iran is to build a second nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, by early 2014, state television reported Sunday, according to news reports.
“Iran will build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bushehr next year,” state television quoted Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, as saying, according to a report on Afghanistan news site Tolo News.
He was referring to the Iranian calendar year, running from March 2013 to March 2014, the site said.
The current Bushehr nuclear plant was started by German engineers in the 1970s, before Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and was completed by Russia, which continues to help keep it running and provides fuel for it, Tolo News said.
Iran has repeatedly said in recent years that it is planning to build more nuclear power plants but nothing has been offered to show that any work is under way, according to a report by The Associated Press.
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