642: Walking Bear

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 18m
August 10th, 2014
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Executive Producers: James Wolgamuth, Sir David Foley Grand Duke of the USA, Rado Wutej

Associate Executive Producers: Angela Cataneda, Herb Lamb, Sir John Donovan

Cover Artist: MartinJJ


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Turkish Elections Today
Turkish presidential election gets Google doodle
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:43
ISTANBUL (AA) - Internet giant Google has designed a doodle to mark the Turkish presidential election.
On Google's Turkish home page, the company's logo is transformed into a three-dimensional right-angle with a ballot box decorated with the Turkish flag at the bottom. A ticked ballot paper is being put in the box.
By clicking on the doodle web users are taken to entries on Sunday's election.
Google has previously used topical subjects as the basis for doodles, marking national holidays, cultural issues or important figures in history.
The first was in 1998 when Google staff took time off work to attend the Burning Man festival.
Related ArticlesFraud, sex, post-it art: Google cuts search links
Google still blocked, despite company officials' visit: Cuba
Over 25 policemen detained in Turkey as a result of operation against Gulen's supporters
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:26
Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 5
By Rufiz Hafizoglu - Trend:
Over 25 policemen have been detained as a result of the operation being held in Turkey against the supporters of the Fethullah Gulen movement, Turkish TRT Haber TV channel reported on Aug.5.
The operations are being conducted in the city of Istanbul and 14 provinces of the country.
Reportedly, in total, about 100 people have been detained as a result of the operations against Gulen's supporters.
The operations against the movement of Fethullah Gulen were resumed in Turkey on Aug.5.
Gulen, the founder of the Hizmet public movement, as well as, the Turkish Journalists and Writers Foundation, are accused of being involved in a huge wiretapping scandal by the Turkish government.
Following the case, Prime Minister Erdogan accused Gulen and representatives of his movement of standing behind the wiretapping of the phone conversations.
Erdogan also stressed that the Gulen movement, which he earlier called a "parallel structure", proved with its anti-state activities that it is not a religious movement but a politicized and illegal structure.
Turkish PM called on Gulen not to intervene in Turkey's internal affairs and accused the U.S. of supporting him.
A criminal case has been initiated in Turkey against Fethullah Gulen for his coup attempt and espionage against Turkey.
Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Gulen will be extradited from the U.S., adding that Turkey has launched the legal procedure for his extradition.
Edited by CN
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28 Pages is meant to accuse the Saudis - The threat may be enough
About the High-Rise Safety Initiative '' High-Rise Safety Initiative
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 02:30
About the High-Rise Safety InitiativeWhat is the High-Rise Safety Initiative?The High-Rise Safety Initiative is a ballot measure that will appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot in New York City. If approved by voters, it will require the NYC Department of Buildings to investigate high-rise building collapses in NYC that occurred on, or any time after, September 11, 2001. Its provisions exclude the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, but apply to the collapse of World Trade Center 7 and any high-rise collapse that may occur in the future.
Because all local ballot measures in New York State that require the expenditure of public funds must include their own revenue source, the High-Rise Safety Initiative proposes a .9% surcharge on construction permits issued by the Department of Buildings. This is estimated to raise $1 million per year, which, when passed, will cover the anticipated cost to the City. This .9% surcharge would be lifted, however, if the High-Rise Safety Fund exceeds $3 million, and reinstituted if the High-Rise Safety Fund falls below $1 million.
PurposeOur goal is to make New York City a safer place to live and work. The High-Rise Safety Initiative will accomplish this first by conducting a robust investigation into the collapse of World Trade Center 7, and second by ensuring that timely and comprehensive investigations are carried out if high-rise collapses occur in the future.
On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed the three largest structural failures in history '' the collapse of World Trade Center 1 and 2 in the morning, and later that day the collapse of World Trade Center 7, a 47-story high-rise located on the north side of the World Trade Center complex.
In the weeks and months after 9/11, the City of New York conducted a massive cleanup effort that had an unfortunate consequence: it resulted in the destruction of most of the steel debris from the buildings, making a proper forensic investigation into how the buildings collapsed impossible. The ''Building Performance Study'' conducted by FEMA in the first year after 9/11 and the investigation later conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology were therefore based almost entirely on ''paper- and computer-generated hypotheticals'' as predicted by Fire Engineering Magazine editor Bill Manning, who decried the investigation as a ''half-baked farce.'' It is because of this that we were unable to learn valuable lessons from the catastrophe, lessons that could save lives by improving and safeguarding the structural integrity of New York City buildings.
By requiring the Department of Buildings to investigate high-rise building collapses, the High-Rise Safety Initiative will help ensure that we never see another building collapse in New York City. With this new charter provision, investigations will be conducted swiftly and comprehensively, findings will be based on well-preserved forensic evidence, and buildings in New York City and around the world will be made safer.
World Trade Center 7Before 9/11, no high-rise building had ever collapsed as a result of fire. High-rises are built to withstand all types of office fires, including that which occurred in World Trade Center 7, which is why its collapse has great significance for architectural and engineering professionals in New York City and across the globe. There are valuable lessons to learn from its collapse, lessons that can and will save lives.
Although the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a report on World Trade Center 7 in 2008, it was imperfect first and foremost because the destruction of the steel in the building's cleanup necessitated over-reliance on a computer model for its investigation. Experts dispute NIST's conclusions, citing the omission of critical structural features from the model and the model's failure to reproduce the observed free-fall motion. Curiously, NIST refused to release modeling data on the grounds that its release ''might jeopardize public safety,'' thus preventing engineers from being able to independently verify its model and findings. A new investigation by the City of New York will allow for these shortcomings to be addressed, thus furthering our understanding of how World Trade Center 7 collapsed and leading to safer building design in the future.
Ballot Initiative ProcessNew York Municipal Home Rule law allows for voters in New York State to amend their city charters through a ballot initiative process. In order for the proposed charter amendment to appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot, the High-Rise Safety Initiative must file a petition with the City of New York containing at least 30,000 signatures from registered New York City voters by July 3, 2014. If the City Council does not adopt the proposed charter amendment or vote to put it on the November 2014 ballot after two months, the High-Rise Safety Initiative can file a second petition containing at least 15,000 signatures by September 4 and thereby ensure that the proposed charter amendment appears on the November 2014 ballot.
Pentagon Releases Footage Showing U.S. Military F-18 Hornet Drop '500-Pound Laser Guided Bombs' on ISIS Terror Target | Video | TheBlaze.com
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 06:10
New video released by the Pentagon late Friday night shows U.S. military aircrafts striking Islamic State terror sites.
''The first attack occurred about 6:45 a.m. EDT when two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region,'' the Pentagon said. ''ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the city, where U.S. personnel are located.''
''Two additional air strikes occurred later in the day, the last at about 11:20 a.m. EDT when four F/A-18 aircraft successfully struck a stationary ISIL convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position near Irbil, neutralizing the mortar and convoy,'' the Pentagon added.
Footage of the strikes shows thick black plumes of smoke rising into the air following a bright white flash after the targets had been hit.
President Barack Obama said Thursday night during a special prime-time address that he authorized targeted airstrikes if needed to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.
Footage also released Friday night by the Pentagon shows U.S. forces conducting humanitarian aid drops.
''This mission was conducted from multiple airbases within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and included one C-17 and two C-130 aircraft that together dropped a total of 72 bundles of supplies,'' the Pentagon said. ''They were escorted by two F/A-18s also from an airbase within Central Command; the supply mission did not require any U.S. ground forces.''
The drop provided displaced Iraqis with 5,300 gallons of fresh water and 8,000 meals, according to the Pentagon.
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Erbil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:28
Erbil, also written Arbil, or Irbil, and known as Hewlªr (Kurdish: ھەÙÙێرHewlªr; Assyrian: ܐܪÜ'Ü'Ü Arbel, Turkish: Erbil ) is located 88 kilometres (55 miles) east of Mosul and is the capital and, with a population of approximately 1.5 million (2013), largest city of the Kurdistan Region.
Urban life at Erbil (Hewlªr) can be dated back to at least 6000 BC,[2][3] and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.[2][3] At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Arbil. In the early part of the 3rd millennium BC, the Hurrians from Asia Minor were the first to establish Urbilum and expand their rule to parts of northern Mesopotamia. The city became an integral part of Assyria from the 25th century BC to the 7th century BC, but after it lost its independence at the end of the 7th century BC, both Assyria and the city of Erbil were under the rule of many regional powers in turn, including the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and Greeks. Following the Arab Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia, the Arabs dissolved Assyria (then known as Assuristan/Athura) as a geo-political entity in the mid-7th century AD, and during Medieval times the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and OttomanTurks.[4]
Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artifacts, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area.[5]
The city officially has been appointed Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism.[6][7] In July 2014 it was appointed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Etymology[edit]The name Erbil was mentioned in Sumerian holy writings of third millennium BC as Urbilum, Urbelum or Urbillum,[8] which appears to originate from Hurrian[9] Arbilum, who inhabited the area.[10] Later, the Akkadians and Assyrians by a folk etymology rendered the name as arba'ŠilŠto mean four gods.[9] The city became a centre for the worship of the Assyro-Babylonian goddess Ishtar. In classical times the city became known by its Aramaic name, Arbela. In Old Persian the city was called Arbairā.[11]
Today, the modern Kurdish name of the city, Hewlªr, appears to be a corruption of the name Arbel by a series of metatheses of consonants.[9]
History[edit]Ancient history[edit]It has been claimed that Erbil is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history.[12] The Neo-Sumerian ruler of Ur, Amar-Sin sacked Urbilum in his second year, c. 1975 BC)[8]
Erbil was an integral part of Assyria from around 2500 BC until 605 BC, and it remained part of Assyria under Persian, Greek, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid rule.
Under the Median Empire, Cyaxares might have settled a number of people from the Ancient Iranian tribe of Sagartians in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in the capture of Nineveh.[13] The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great occupied Assyria in 547 BC, and established it as an Achaemenid satrapy called in Old Persian Aθurā (Athura), with Arbela as the capital.[14]
The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Erbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the "Battle of Arbela".
Erbil became part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sasanids. The ancient Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene (the Greek form of Ḥadyab) had its center at Erbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism.[15] Its populace then converted from the Mesopotamian Religion during the 1st and 2nd centuries to Church of the EastChristianity, with Pkidha traditionally becoming its first bishop around 104 AD.[16][17] The metropolitanate of Ḥadyab in Arbela became a centre of eastern Syriac Christianity until late in the Middle Ages.[18]
Medieval history[edit]Arbela was an early center of Syriac Christianity. By 100 AD there was a bishop seated in the city. As many Assyrians adapted Biblical (including Jewish) names, most of the early bishops had Eastern Aramaic or Jewish/Biblical names, which does not suggest that many of the early Christians in this city were converts from Judaism.[19] It served as the seat of a Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East. From the city's Christian period come many church fathers and well-known authors in Syriac.
When the Mongols invaded the Near East in the 13th century, they attacked Arbil for the first time in 1237. They plundered the lower town but had to retreat before an approaching Caliphate army and had to put off the capture of the citadel.[20] After the fall of Baghdad to H¼leg¼ and the Mongols in 1258, they returned to Arbil and were able to capture the citadel after a siege lasting six months.[21] H¼leg¼ then appointed an Assyrian Christian governor to the town and there was an influx of Jacobites, who were allowed to build a church.
As time passed, sustained persecutions of Christians, Jews and Buddhists throughout the Ilkhanate began in earnest in 1295 under the rule of O¯rat amir Nauruz.[22] This manifested early on in the reign of the IlkhanGhazan. In 1297, after Ghazan had felt strong enough to overcome Nauruz's influence, he put a stop to the persecutions.
During the reign of the Ilkhan –ljeit¼ the Christian inhabitants retreated to the citadel to escape persecution. In the Spring of 1310, the Malek (governor) of the region attempted to seize it from them with the help of the Kurds. Despite Mar Yahballaha's best efforts to avert the impending doom, the citadel was at last taken by Ilkhanate troops and Kurdish tribesmen on July 1, 1310, and all the defenders were massacred, including all the Christian inhabitants of the lower town.[23][24]
The city's Aramaic-speaking Assyrian population remained significant in size until the destruction of the city by the forces of Timur in 1397.[25]
In the Middle Ages, Erbil was ruled successively by the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Buwayhids, the Seljuks and then the Atabegs of Erbil (1131''1232), under whom it was a Turkmen state; they were in turn followed by the Ilkhanids, the Jalayirids, the Kara Koyunlu, the Timurids, and the Ak Koyunlu. Erbil was the birthplace of the famous 12th and 13th century Kurdish historians and writers Ibn Khallikan and Ibn al-Mustawfi. Erbil and all of Iraq passed into the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. Erbil was part of the Musul Vilayet in Ottoman Empire for 400 years until 1918.
Modern history[edit]The modern town of Erbil stands on a tell topped by an Ottoman fort. During the Middle Ages, Erbil became a major trading centre on the route between Baghdad and Mosul, a role which it still plays today with important road links to the outside world.
Today, the Kurds form the largest ethnic group in the city, with smaller numbers of Arabs, Assyrians, Turcoman, Armenians and Mandeans also extant.
The parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region was established in Erbil in 1970 after negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Mustafa Barzani, but was effectively controlled by Saddam Hussein until the Kurdish uprising at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The legislature ceased to function effectively in the mid-1990s when fighting broke out between the two main Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The city was captured by the KDP in 1996 with the assistance of the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The PUK then established an alternative Kurdish government in Sulaimaniyah. KDP claimed that on March 1996 PUK asked for Iran's help to fight KDP. Considering this as a foreign attack on Iraq's soil, the KDP asked the Iraqi government for help.
The Kurdish Parliament in Erbil reconvened after a peace agreement was signed between the Kurdish parties in 1997, but had no real power. The Kurdish government in Erbil had control only in the western and northern parts of the autonomous region. During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, a United States special forces task force was headquartered just outside of Erbil. The city was the scene of celebrations on April 10, 2003 after the fall of the Ba'ath regime.
During the US occupation of Iraq, sporadic attacks had hit Erbil. Parallel bomb attacks against Eid celebrations killed 109 people on February 1, 2004. Responsibility was claimed by the Ansar al-Sunnah, and stated to be in solidarity with Ansar al-Islam.[citation needed] Another bombing on May 4, 2005 killed 60 civilians.[citation needed]
The Erbil International Airport opened in the city in 2005.
Projects[edit]Downtown Erbil[edit]Downtown Erbil is a project for a large-scale mixed-use complex in Erbil. The project is coordinated by Emaar Properties, the GCC's largest real estate developer. Emaar is well known for international big projects like Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa. The project was launched in 2013 and will cover an area of 541,000 square meters. This area will be used for residential apartments, hotels and a shopping mall.[26]
Aura Erbil[edit]Aura Erbil is another new project with a high standard of living, which is coordinated by Zardman. [27]
Transportation[edit]Erbil International Airport is one of Iraq's busiest airports and is located near the city. Services includes direct flights to many domestic destinations as well as flights to international destinations in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
Climate[edit]Erbil's climate is hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Csa), according to K¶ppen climate classification, with extremely hot summers and mild wet winters. Most precipitation falls in January.[28]
Climate data for ErbilMonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYearRecord high °C (°F)20(68)27(81)30(86)34(93)42(108)44(111)48(118)49(120)45(113)39(102)31(88)24(75)49(120)Average high °C (°F)12.4(54.3)14.2(57.6)18.1(64.6)24(75)31.5(88.7)38.1(100.6)42(108)41.9(107.4)37.9(100.2)30.7(87.3)21.2(70.2)14.4(57.9)27.2(80.98)Daily mean °C (°F)7.4(45.3)8.9(48)12.4(54.3)17.5(63.5)24.1(75.4)29.7(85.5)33.4(92.1)33.1(91.6)29(84)22.6(72.7)15(59)9.1(48.4)20.18(68.32)Average low °C (°F)2.4(36.3)3.6(38.5)6.7(44.1)11.1(52)16.7(62.1)21.4(70.5)24.9(76.8)24.4(75.9)20.1(68.2)14.5(58.1)8.9(48)3.9(39)13.22(55.79)Record low °C (°F)''4(25)''6(21)''1(30)3(37)6(43)10(50)13(55)17(63)11(52)4(39)''2(28)''2(28)''6(21)Precipitation mm (inches)111(4.37)97(3.82)89(3.5)69(2.72)26(1.02)0(0)0(0)0(0)0(0)12(0.47)56(2.2)80(3.15)540(21.25)Avg. precipitation days9910941'--'--13610'--Avg. snowy days10'--00000000'--'-- % humidity74.5706558.541.528.52527.530.543.560.575.550.04Source #1: Climate-Data.org,[28] My Forecast for records, humidity, snow and precipitation days[29]Source #2: What's the Weather Like.org,[30] Erbilia[31]Main sights[edit]Citadel of Erbil[edit]The Citadel of Arbil is a tell or occupied mound in the historical heart of Erbil, rising between 25 and 32 metres (82 and 105 ft) from the surrounding plain. The buildings on top of the tell stretch over a roughly oval area of 430 by 340 metres (1,410 ft — 1,120 ft) occupying 102,000 square metres (1,100,000 sq ft). It has been claimed that the site is the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world.[3] The earliest evidence for occupation of the citadel mound dates to the 5th millennium BC, and possibly earlier. It appears for the first time in historical sources during the Ur III period, and gained particular importance during the Neo-Assyrian period. West of the citadel at Ary Kon quarter, a chamber tomb dating to the Neo-Assyrian period has been excavated.[5] During the Sassanian period and the Abbasid Caliphate, Erbil was an important center for Christianity and the Assyrians. After the Mongols captured the citadel in 1258, Erbil's importance began to decline.
During the 20th century, the urban structure was significantly modified, as a result of which a number of houses and public buildings were destroyed. In 2007, the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) was established to oversee the restoration of the citadel. In the same year, all inhabitants, except one family, were evicted from the citadel as part of a large restoration project. Since then, archaeological research and restoration works have been carried out at and around the tell by various international teams and in cooperation with local specialists, and many areas remain off-limits to visitors due to the danger of unstable walls and infrastructure. The government plans to have 50 families live in the citadel once it is renovated.
The only religious structure that currently survives in the citadel is the Mulla Afandi Mosque. When it was fully occupied, the citadel was divided in three districts or mahallas: from east to west the Serai, the Takya and the Topkhana. The Serai was occupied by notable families; the Takya district was named after the homes of dervishes, which are called takyas; and the Topkhana district housed craftsmen and farmers. Other sights to visit in the citadel include the bathing rooms (hammam) built in 1775 located near the mosque and the Textile Museum.[32] Erbil citadel has been inscribed on the World Heritage List on June 21, 2014 .
Other sights[edit]The covered Erbil Qaysari Bazaars, lying below the main entrance to the citadel and stocking mainly household goods and tools.The 36 m high Mudhafaria Minaret, situated in Minaret Park several blocks from the citadel, dates back to the late 12th century AD and the Governor of Erbil, in the reign of Saladin, Muzaffar Al-Din Abu Sa'eed Al-Kawkaboori who had entered in the obedience of Salahuddin without war and married his sister. It has an octagonal base decorated with two tiers of niches, which is separated from the main shaft by a small balcony, also decorated. Another historical minaret with turquoise glazed tiles is nearby.Sami Rahman ParkFranso Hariri StadiumThe Mound of Qalich Agha lies within the grounds of the Museum of Civilization, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the citadel. An excavation in 1996 found tools from the Halaf, Ubaid and Uruk periods.[5]Kurdish Textile MuseumCulture[edit]Sports[edit]The local major football team is Erbil SC which plays its football matches at Franso Hariri Stadium (named after the assassinated Assyrian politician Franso Hariri) which is based in the south part of central Erbil. Erbil SC were the first Kurdish team to make it to the AFC Champions league.
Gallery[edit]See also[edit]Twin cities[edit]References[edit]^"Kurdistan Regional Government". KRG. Retrieved 2012-05-21. ^ ab"Czech archaeologists uncover Stone Age tools in Erbil (Hewlªr), Iraq". Radio Prague. 2010-03-17. Retrieved 08-12-2010. ^ abc"Erbil Citadel". UNESCO. Retrieved 2010-08-30. ^Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq^ abc'Directorate Antiquities of Erbil's Guide' Brochure produced by General Directorate of Antiquities, KRG, Ministry of Tourism^Erbil named 2014 Arab Tourism Capital, Kurdistan Regional Government. Retrieved 2014-01-30^"Erbil: Kurdish City, Arab Capital", Rudaw. Retrieved 2014-01-30^ abHamblin, William J. (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. Routledge. p. 111. ISBN 0-415-25589-9. ^ abcKhan, Geoffrey (1999). A grammar of neo-Aramaic: the dialect of the Jews of Arbel, Part 1, Volume 47. BRILL. p. 2. ISBN 978-90-04-11510-1. ^I. Gershevitc, The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 2, Cambridge University Press, 1985 '' 964 pages, s p. 37^"Iranica: Arbela". Iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2012-05-21. ^Erbil: World's oldest, and continously [sic] inhabited city - 8,000 Years, Allvoices.com^ASAGARTA, Encyclopedia Iranica^E. Herzfeld, The Persian Empire, ed. G. Walser, Wiesbaden, 1968, pp. 304-07^Adiabene, Jewish Kingdom of Mesopotamia, Jonah Gabriel Lissner^MÅ IHA-ZKHA. "HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF ADIABENE UNDER THE PARTHIANS AND THE SASSANIDS". Tertullian.org. ^Neusner, Jacob (1969). A history of the Jews in Babylonia, Volume 2. Brill Archive. p. 354. ^British Institute of Persian Studies (1981). Iran , Volumes 19-21. the University of Michigan. pp. 15, 17. ^Gillman, Ian and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. Christians in Asia before 1500. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1999) p. 33^Woods 1977, pp. 49''50^Novček et al. 2008, p. 261^Grousset, p. 379^Sourdel 2010^Grousset, p. 383^Edwin Munsell Bliss, Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities, (Chicago 1896) p. 153^Emaar Erbil, Emaar Properties Website. Retrieved 2014-01-30^- businessnews.com.lb, website. Retrieved 2014 - 03 - 27^ ab"Climate: Arbil - Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Climate-Data.org. Retrieved 13 August 2013. ^"Irbil, Iraq Climate". My Forecast. Retrieved 14 July 2013. ^"Erbil climate info". What's the Weather Like.org. Retrieved 14 July 2013. ^"Erbil Weather Forecast and Climate Information". Erbilia. Retrieved 14 July 2013. ^'Erbil Citadel' Brochure, High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR). www.erbilcitadel.orgSources[edit]Sourdel, D. (2010), "Irbil", in Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P., Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Brill Online, OCLC 624382576 Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes, (Translated from the French by Naomi Walford), New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press (1970)External links[edit]
U.S. Attack on Islamic Militants Is All About Iraq's Oil | New Republic
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:30
Last night, President Barack Obama announced that he was authorizing American airtstrikes in Iraq. He described his intervention as a ''humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain'' and as an effort ''to protect our American personnel.'' One word that he didn't mention is ''oil,'' but it lies near the center of American motives for intervention.
The United States is conducting airdrops to aid the Yazidis who have fled the advance of Islamic State militants, but it is conducting airstrikes around Erbil, which is to the west. There are American consular personnel in Erbil, but they could be evacuated if necessary. What Obama left unsaid was that Erbil, a city of 1.5 million, is the capital of the Kurdish regional government and the administrative center of its oil industry, which accounts for about a quarter of Iraq's oil. The Kurds claim that if they were to become an independent state, they would have the ninth-largest oil reserves in the world. And oil wells are near Erbil.
If the Islamic State were to take over Erbil, they would endanger Iraq's oil production and, by extension, global access to oil. Prices would surge at a time when Europe, which buys oil from Iraq, has still not escaped the global recession. Oil prices have already risen in response to the Islamic State's threat to Erbil, and on Thursday, American oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobile began evacuating their personnel from Kurdistan. But oil traders are predicting that American intervention could halt the rise. ''In essence we find U.S. air strikes more bearish than bullish for oil as the act finally draws a line for IS and reinforces both the stability in south Iraq and in Kurdistan,'' Oliver Jakob, a Swiss oil analyst, toldReuters.
In portraying American intervention in Iraq as a purely humanitarian effort, Obama is following the script he read from in Libya, when he justified American intervention as an effort to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. In a March 28, 2011 address to the nation, Obama painted the American intervention as a response to ''brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis.'' Oil was not mentioned, even though Libya was the world's sixteenth-largest oil producer in 2009 and a major supplier to Europe. But oil was most likely involved, as became clear when, after preventing a massacre in Benghazi, the United States and its coalition partners stuck around to topple the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. If the Obama administration wanted to prevent the world's peoples from brutal dictators and repressive regimes or from takeovers by terrorist groups, there are other countries besides Libya and Iraq where it could intervene. What distinguishes these two countries is that they are major oil producers.
The United States should worry about the global oil supply. It is important for global economic and political stability. And having a significant chunk of it fall into the hands of a group like the Islamic State should certainly be a concern. But if Obama is worried about the world's oil supply, then he should say so forthrightly and not leave himself in a position where he will be unable to justify or explain further intervention after the airdrops to the Yazidis are completed. And the administration should also have a plan for making sure that in sending out the Air Force, it will actually end a dire threat to Iraq's oil production and put Iraq back on its feet. In Libya, the U.S. and its partners succeeded in getting rid of Muammar Qaddafi, but not in resolving the country's humanitarian crisis or in keeping its oil flowing. Oil production has plummeted as Libya has been plunged into anarchy after Qaddafi's fall. The challenge in Erbil and Iraq is even more daunting.
1 of 2 Kurdish oil refineries
Oil business center - (US Personell)
Upcoming convention sept 1-4
Erbil Oil & gas (01-04 September 2014),Erbil International Oil & Gas Exhibition,Erbil,Iraq
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:32
Erbil International Oil and Gas Exhibition is going to be one of the massive events of this region dealing with oil and gas sectors. Organized by the eminent Expotim International Fair Organization, Inc, this expo is one of a kind.Erbil International Oil and Gas Exhibition will be a three days expo and this particular event is going to be the first event dealing with oil and gas culmination in this region of Northern Iraq. This venue will be allowing a huge number of industrialists dealing with oil and gas faculties of this region. This exhibition will be allowing positive vibes because of the interactions and sessions that are going to take place in this world class event of Northern Iraq.
Erbil International Oil and Gas Exhibition will see the presence of business units dealing in LNG, geophysics and geology, exploration & production, drilling & well servicing, oil field, gas field equipment & services, refining, processing and petrochemicals, transportation & pipelines , measurement & automation technology , tools & electro-power equipment , retail & distribution services, software, construction, human resources, security, onshore & offshore technology, laboratory equipment , recruiting & training and many others.
ISIS/ISIL/IS using US supplied weapons
Syrian Free Army / Muslim Brotherhood related
ISIL is the Marketing- LOOK at the videos-Upgraded monkeybars
This is what could happen if the Islamic State destroys the Mosul Dam - The Washington Post
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:50
If , as some reports suggest, Islamic State forces have seized Mosul Dam, they might have stumbled on a weapon exponentially more powerful than any U.S.-made armored vehicle or Soviet-era anti-aircraft gun.
The Mosul Dam is Iraq's largest dam and with its shoddy construction could, if destabilized, affect the lives of Iraqis as far south as Baghdad.
Located on Mosul Lake the facility provides electricity and irrigation to surrounding areas.
''If the dam fails, scientists say, Mosul could be completely flooded within hours and a 15-foot wall of water could crash into Baghdad,'' Keith Johnson wrote in a Foreign Policy article from earlier this summer.
A 2011 article from the International Water Power and Dam Construction magazine indicated that if the Mosul Dam was destroyed the ensuing destruction could result in half a million deaths.
In July the Islamic State took the Nuaimiyah Dam in Western Iraq, and now with the seizure of the Mosul Dam, its control of critical infrastructure presents a huge challenge for the the Iraqi government.
In a 2007 letter to Iraqi Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki from then commanding General of the U.S. Army David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, the two Americans warned that the structure, built in the 1980s, had been erected on an unstable foundation of soil and was ''at great risk of failure.''
Johnson described Iraq's dams as the country's ''soft underbelly in the fight against ISIS. ''
Iraqi forces remain in control of Haditha Dam. That structure, a sprawling hydro-electric facility located to the south west of Baghdad in Al-Anbar province, was a key focus of coalition efforts during the Iraq war. For most of the U.S. occupation of the country a large contingent of Marines were physically garrisoned within the structure.
''Using [the] Haditha [dam], ISIS could flood farmland and disrupt drinking water supplies like it did with a smaller dam near Fallujah this spring,'' Johnson wrote, referring to a flood that displaced more than 50,000 people between Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff is a summer intern and a former U.S. infantry Marine.
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WHAT?? ISIS has a gift shop in Istanbul | Al Bawaba
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:47
ISIS has its own gift shop in Istanbul now. (AFP/File)
Ready for weird news?
You can now get your own ISIS-themed mug, t-shirt or headband, all at a local Istanbul Islamic clothing store. And while it sounds strange enough, stranger still is the fact that the owner of the shop is neither a member of the militant Islamic group, or even a supporter. But that doesn't stop him from promoting the products on Facebook.
Journalist Joseph Dana found the ISIS merchandise in an Istanbul clothing store called Islami Giyim, or "Islamic Clothing." And while the shop's owner declined to identify himself in print, his reasons for stocking the ISIS-themed items came as a surprise.
In Dana's translated interview with the shopkeeper, he said supplying this fanfare had a simple motive behind it '-- sales.
"I am responding to a market demand," the shopkeeper said. "This is Islamic clothing, what else can I say?"
Dana says it's not all that surprising such merchandise has emerged. As he says: "for a state hell-bent on a puritanical and bigoted form of Islam," the militant group has " an incredibly savvy marketing and branding campaign."
After all, the ISIS militant campaign has also been busy on social media. So what's next, ISIS-themed greeting cards?
Exclusive: Iraq says Islamic State killed 500 Yazidis, buried some victims alive
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 13:54
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDADSun Aug 10, 2014 8:00am EDT
Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjarl west of Mosul, arrive at Dohuk province, August 4, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Ari Jala
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters on Sunday.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.
"We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani said in a telephone interview, in his first remarks to the media on the issue.
Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as "devil worshipers" and tell them to convert to Islam or face death.
A deadline passed at midday on Sunday for 300 Yazidi families to convert to Islam or face death at the hands of the militants. It was not immediately clear whether the Iraqi minister was talking about the fate of those families or others in the conflict.
"Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar," Sudani said.
The minister's comments could pile pressure on the United States - which has carried out air strikes on Islamic State targets in response to the group's latest push through the north - to provide more extensive support.
"In some of the images we have obtained there are lines of dead Yazidis who have been shot in the head while the Islamic State fighters cheer and wave their weapons over the corpses," said Sudani. "This is a vicious atrocity."
The Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, has prompted tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push to within a 30-minute drive of the Kurdish regional capital Arbil.
Earlier in their push through northern Iraq, Islamic State, which also considers all Shi'ites heretics who must repent or die, boasted of killing hundreds of captive Shi'ite soldiers after capturing the city of Tikrit on June 12. They put footage on the Internet of their fighters shooting prisoners.
The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism, are spread over northern Iraq and are part of the country's Kurdish minority.
Many of their villages were destroyed when Saddam Hussein's troops tried to crush the Kurds during his iron-fisted rule. Some were taken away by the executed former leader's intelligence agents.
Now they are on the defensive again. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives after Kurdish fighters abandoned them in the face of Islamic State militants, and are trapped on a mountain near Sinjar at risk of starvation.
"We spoke to some of the Yazidis who fled from Sinjar. We have dozens of accounts and witness testimonies describing painful scenes of how Islamic State fighters arrived and took girls from their families by force to use them as slaves," Sudani said.
"The terrorist Islamic State has also taken at least 300 Yazidi women as slaves and locked some of them inside a police station in Sinjar and transferred others to the town of Tal Afar. We are afraid they will take them outside the country."
"The international community should submit to the fact that the atrocities of the Islamic State will not stop in Iraq and could be repeated somewhere else if no urgent measures were taken to neutralize this terrorist group," Sudani said.
"It's now the responsibility of the international community to take a firm stand against the Islamic State to reach a consensus on a legitimate decision to start the war on Islamic State to stop genocides and atrocities against civilians."
The militant group, which arrived in northern Iraq in June, has routed Kurds in its latest advance, seizing several towns, a fifth oilfield and Iraq's biggest dam - possibly gaining the ability to flood cities and cut off water and power supplies.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alison Williams)
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US Ambassador to Ankara = key figure in ISIS
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone’s tenure in Turkey ended in July.
Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 21:21
Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr. (born 1952) is the United States ambassador to Turkey.[1] Previously he was Deputy Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was also on leave from the U.S. Department of State as a guest scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt (2005''2008),[2] the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Palau (2002''2005). As a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, he received U.S. government and other organization awards for his work in foreign policy and program management, political reporting and analysis, and peacekeeping.
Ricciardone has extensive diplomatic experience with Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Jordan. He speaks fluent Arabic, Turkish and Italian. He has served in two multinational military deployments: as chief of the Civilian Observer Unit of the Multinational Force and Observers in Egypt's Sinai Desert, and as political advisor to the U.S. and Turkish commanding generals of Operation Provide Comfort, based in Turkey and operating in Iraq. In Washington, Ricciardone directed the Department of State's 9/11 Task Force on the Coalition Against Terrorism and served as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's special coordinator for the Transition of Iraq (1999''2001). He also has served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and in senior management positions under the Director General of the Foreign Service and of Human Resources.
Early life and career[edit]Ricciardone is the son of Francis Ricciardone, Sr., a Seabee veteran of World War II.[3] He graduated from Malden Catholic High School in Malden, Massachusetts.
Upon graduation summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1973, he received a Fulbright Scholarship for teaching and study in Italy. He went to Iran as a teacher in 1976 where he taught at the Community School, Tehran, traveling widely in Southwest Asia, Europe, and the Middle East until he entered the Foreign Service in 1978.[4]
He speaks Italian, Turkish, Arabic and French.[2]
Foreign service[edit]Nominated by President George W. Bush on July 25, 2005, and confirmed by the United States Senate on July 29, 2005, Ricciardone was sworn in as United States Ambassador to Egypt on August 26, 2005.
Ricciardone was Deputy Ambassador for the American mission to Afghanistan from May 2010.[5][6][7]
Ricciardone's nomination to be ambassador to Turkey stalled during 2010, and in late 2010, President Obama gave Ricciardone a recess appointment so he could begin serving. The U.S. Senate then confirmed Ricciardone in a voice vote on October 4, 2011.[8]
Ricciardone is married to Marie, a molecular biologist[9] who was educated and later taught in Turkish universities during her husband's service time in Turkey.[3] The couple has two daughters, Francesca and Chiara. Francesca was born in Turkey. Both daughters were schooled in Ankara for three years.[3]
References[edit]^"Francis Joseph Ricciardone, Jr". US State Department. Retrieved July 1, 2014. ^ abBiography, Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr.. U.S. Department of State. September 8, 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2007-10-12. ^ abc"Testimony of Francis J. Ricciardone Ambassador-Designate to the Republic of Turkey July 20, 2010 Senate Foreign Relations Committee". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2010-08-13. ^"News and Events". Csre Union. January 16, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2012. ^Karen DeYoung (March 2009). "Hundreds of New Civilian Employees Proposed for Afghanistan". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-18. ^James Bone and Tom Coghlan (March 2009). "US strengthens diplomatic presence in Afghanistan". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2009-03-18. ^"Deputy Ambassador". Embassy of the United States Kabul, Afghanistan. June 13, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2012. ^"U.S. Senate Periodical Press Gallery". Senate. Retrieved August 21, 2012. ^Kimberly Sheu (August 2, 2005). "Ricciardone '73 named ambassador to Egypt". The Dartmouth News. External links[edit]PersondataNameRicciardone, Francis J., Jr.Alternative namesShort descriptionAmerican diplomatDate of birth1952Place of birthBoston, Massachusetts, U.S.Date of deathPlace of death
Brand new Ambassador John Bass served as U.S. ambassador to Tbilisi from 2009 to 2012. He also led the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team from 2008-2009. From 2005 to 2008, he served as director of the Department of State Operations Center. During his tenure there, Bass led the response to over 25 crises, including coordinating international assistance in response to Hurricane Katrina and orchestrating the largest U.S. government crises, including coordinating international assistance in response to evacuation of American citizens in 60 years.
John R. Bass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 21:21
John R. Bass was Ambassador of the United States to Georgia from 2009 to 2012.[1]
Ambassador Bass is from upstate New York, and is a graduate of Syracuse University.[1] He speaks Italian and French.[1] In October 2012 he was appointed executive secretary of the State Department and will with the help of four deputies, serves as the liaison and the between the State Department's many bureaus and the leadership offices of the secretary, the deputy secretaries, and the undersecretary for policy. The executive secretary's office also manages relations between State and the White House, the NSC, and the other cabinet-level agencies.
See also[edit]References[edit]External links[edit]
U.S. embassy in Beirut denies involvement in ISIS creation
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:52
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. embassy in Beirut took to social media Wednesday to deny claims that the United States created and condones the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.Media reports in Lebanon have claimed that in former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's memoir Hard Choices, she "admitted in her book that the United States created the Islamic States and planned on acknowledging its presence."
Clinton's book has no reference of any kind to U.S. involvement in the creation of ISIS or plans to recognize it as a legitimate organization. The media reports said that the United States stalled their plans after the Egyptian revolution and the condemning of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The U.S. embassy quickly took to Twitter and Facebook to make it unequivocally clear that these allegations are false.
(C) 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Christian refugees used as a distraction
Pope Francis brough in to legitimize the rescue mission
Pope sending cardinal to Iraq to support fleeing Christians - MIDEAST
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:56
VATICAN CITY '' Agence France-Presse
Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, about 30 kilometres east of the northern province of Nineveh, take shelter at the Saint-Joseph church in the Kurdish city of Arbil, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on Aug. 7. AFP Photo / Safin Hamed
Pope Francis is sending a cardinal to Iraq to help thousands of Christians fleeing the rapid advance of jihadis from the Islamic State (IS), the Vatican said Aug 8.Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a former papal nuncio to the country, is being sent to Iraqi Kurdistan to show the pope's "spiritual support and the church's solidarity with the people who are suffering", papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said. He said Filoni would be departing soon but gave no date.
The Vatican has come in for criticism from Eastern Christians not doing more to help the persecuted minority, who are fleeing into the mountains alongside thousands of members of the minority Yazidi community in the face of a rapid advance north by Sunni extremists.
Francis had appealed on Aug. 7 for the international community to mobilise to protect and ensure aid for the fleeing populations, thousands of whom have been stranded on mountain tops with little food or water.
The Vatican's own representative for Christians in the Middle East, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, said humanitarian intervention of a completely different order was needed to stop "the painful and unjust exodus of Christians" from Iraq.
Yes, its about oil, but more importantly the CONTROL of oil
The bombing is showing that the US will CONTROL that region
Keep ISIS around for CHAOS for the US to CONTROL
Same as LYBIA
Same as EGYPT
Summary of the strategy
“What has been the end of the Neocon's Iraq strategy from the
start?...For some two years prior to the Iraq war, in Council of Foreign
Relations and other elite circles, stories were circulated about the
benefits of partitioning Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions for
the benefit of the "Greater Mid East" (read instead: "Eretz
Israel")...This could lead to a bloody civil war--easily anticipated
prior to the U.S. invasion--and probably leave the Israelis in control
of the majority of Iraq's oil through proxies in a future Kurdistan…A
depopulated, destroyed Iraq will be in no position to prevent the
diversion of its oil supplies and water from the Tigris and Euphrates to
Eretz Israel. Further, the conflict could spill over into Syria and
Iran and other regional states, possibly drawing them into a conflict
reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq war.”
The Biden Doctrine with CFR
“A non-binding resolution that sailed through the U.S. Senate in
September 2007 reignited debate over Iraq’s political future. Introduced
by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) and Sam Brownback, (R-KS), the
measure calls for a decentralized Iraqi government “based upon the
principles of federalism” and advocates for a relatively weak central
government with strong Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regional
administrations. The bill, based on a proposal first introduced by Biden
and CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb, passed the Senate by a 75 to
23 margin. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Chris Dodd (D-CT), rivals
in a crowded presidential field that includes Sen. Biden, both supported
the amendment.”
Malaki is the problem
If he steps done, he is a dead man
The shill is on deck
Also similar to Ukraine:
Get ISIS to join Maliki govt, as the 'Nazis' who will 'take care of busness
Salafist threatens US nuclear facility - The Local
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:28
German jihadist training in Pakistan in 2009. Photo: DPA
German security services said on Thursday the risks posed by Islamist terrorists in the country remained ''high'' after one extremist threatened to bomb an American nuclear facility in the west of Germany.
The Federal Criminal Office said they were aware of a threat made by German Salafist Silvio K., who is believed to be fighting in Syria for ISIS.
But, the office, said there were "no indications of concrete attack plans or an impending attack".
Silvio has reportedly threatened to attack the B¼chel facility near the western city of Koblenz, where US nuclear weapons are stored.
The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) reported on Thursday that security around the facility had been stepped up.
''We are working closely with the German authorities,'' a spokesman for the US embassy in Berlin said.
An international arrest warrant was put out for Silvio in July.
Silvio was born in Saxony and lived in Essen and then Solingen in North Rhine-Westphalia. He is thought to be a member of the banned German Salafist group Millatu Ibrahim.
"He is a star of the Jihad scene and has between 5,000 to 10,000 Salafist supporters in Germany," terror export Guido Steinberg told WAZ.
SEE ALSO: Baghdad suicide bomber was German
Why Aren't ISIS and Al-Qaeda Attacking Israel?
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 13:25
Activist Post
With the recent slaughter of Palestinians taking place on television screens across the world, only the grossly misinformed would believe that Israel's Palestinian extermination program is actually ''self-defense.''
Yet for all of Israel's whining about how it is being targeted by ''Islamic extremists'' and ''terrorists,''(which should be translated to mean Palestinians, Iran, or any other secular or nationalist Arab government in the region) there is a curious and deafening silence when it is confronted with actual terrorists and Muslim fanatics such as ISIS, al-Nusra, and the myriad of other fundamentalist groups waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.
This bizarre silence has yet to raise the eyebrows of the somnambulant general public.
Of course, Israel's lack of concern regarding legitimate terrorist groups is not bizarre at all when one understands the perspective and goals held by the settler state toward its neighbors in the region or its connections to the very groups who espouse Israel as their number one enemy.
But while Israel does not respond with its usual apoplectic frothing of victimhood and danger regarding these terrorist groups that have now so infested the Middle East as to make the entire region a general war zone, it is important to point out that these same terrorist groups do not launch coordinated military attacks in Tel Aviv, they launch them in Damascus and Mosul '' cities belonging to secular nations seen by Israel as the enemy.
The question then is ''Why?'' Why does Israel not share the concern it has over Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians, and Lebanese with al-Nusra, ISIS, and al-Qaeda? Why do these groups wage jihad against Israel's enemies but not against Israel itself?
Indeed, this curious fact was also raised by Nabil Na'eem, the former al-Qaeda commander who recently gave an interview to Al-Maydeen where he stated that these organizations of Islamic terror were in fact controlled by the CIA. Na'eem stated in regards to Issam Hattito,
Peshmerga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:33
Kurdistan Flag which Peshmerga uses as their emblem
Unit informationPeshmerga or Peshmerge (Kurdish pronunciation [pɛʃm...rËÉ...]; Kurdish: پێشمەرگەPªÅŸmerge}, literally "those who confront death")[1] is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. The Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area. Peshmerga forces include women in their ranks.[2] Many Kurds will say that all Kurds willing to fight for their rights are Peshmerga. The term remains in contemporary usage, sometimes written as pesh merga in Anglophone media.[3] The Peshmerga has proven to be an effective army, providing security to all ethnicities. During the US led invasion of Iraq the Peshmerga was directly responsible for the capture of Saddam Hussein.[4] They also captured al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden's messenger in 2004, which led to the slaying of Bin Laden.[5]
The term Peshmerga is also the official name of the armed forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.[6]
History[edit]The term Peshmerga was first officially introduced during the establishment of the Mahabad Republic, a self-declared Kurdish state that lasted from 1946 to 1947. The term was used as the official name of the republic's army. The army consisted of a number of former militias that united together under the command of Kurdish leaders, Mustafa Barzani and Qazi Muhammad. After the fall of the republic, Peshmerga regrouped as rebel organizations that would fight the Iran and Iraq governments for the next several decades.[7]
Through much of the late 20th century, Peshmerga often came into conflict with the Iraqi forces, using guerilla warfare tactics against them. Many of these Peshmerga were led by Mustafa Barzani and Mustafa Nerwai of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, while others were under the command of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani and Kosrat Rasul Ali. After Mustafa Barzani's death, his son Masoud Barzani took his position. Most of the Peshmerga's efforts were to keep a region under the specific party's control and to fight off any incursions by the Iraqi Republican Guard. Following the First Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Kurdistan fell into a state of civil war between the two major Kurdish parties the KDP and the PUK, and their Peshmerga forces were used to fight each other.
Across the border in Iranian Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran branded its fighters as Peshmerga and restarted its armed struggle against successive regimes in Iran.[8] The Komalah party, a leftist group in Iranian Kurdistan, would also begin an armed conflict against Iran using its own fighters, also branded as Peshmerga.
Roots (1890-1958)[edit]Kurdish Forces in World War I (1914-1918)[edit]During World War I Kurds served as irregular and regular units in the Ottoman Army. Kurds made up a majority of the Ninth Army and supplied enough troops for many frontier units and 135 squadrons of reserve cavalry.[citation needed] These forces, with their experience and knowledge of the terrain, were contributory in fighting the threats to the Eastern Ottoman Empire.[citation needed]
Shaykh Mahmud Barzanji Revolt (1919-1923)[edit]Although both the Turks and the British used Kurdish tribes to instigate cross-border conflicts, local shaykhs recruited Kurds to revolt against the regional powers. The first of these Kurdish call-to-arms occurred in British controlled Southern Kurdistan in May 1919. Shortly before being appointed governor of Sulaymaniya, Shaykh Mahmud Bazanji ordered the arrest of all British political and military officials in the region. After seizing control of the region, Barzanji raised a military force from his Kurdish tribal followers in Iran and proclaimed himself ''Ruler of all of Kurdistan''.
Tribal fighters from both Iran and Iraq quickly allied themselves with Shaykh Mahmud as he became more successful in opposing British rule. According to McDowall, the Shaykh's forces ''were largely Barzinja tenantry and tribesmen, the Hamavand under Karim Fattah Beg, and disaffected sections of the Jaf, Jabbari, Shaykh Bizayni and Shuan tribes''. The popularity and numbers of Shaykh Mahmud's troops only increased after their ambush of a British military column.
Among Mahmud's many supporters and troop leaders was 16-year-old Mustafa Barzani, the future leader of the Kurdish nationalist cause and commander of Peshmerga forces in Kurdish Iraq. Barzani and his men, following the orders of Barzani tribal shakyh Ahmad Barzani, traversed the Piyaw Valley on their way to join Shaykh Mahmud Barzanji. Despite being ambushed numerous times along the way, Barzani and his men reached Shaykh Mahmud's location, albeit too late to aid in the revolt.
The Barzani fighters were only a part of the Shaykh's 500-person force. As the British became aware of the shaykh's growing political and military power, they were forced to respond militarily. Two British brigades were deployed to defeat Shaykh Mahmud's fighters at Darbandi Bazyan near Sulaymaniya in June 1919. Shaykh Mahmud was eventually arrested and exiled to India in 1921.
At the root of the rebellion, Shaykh Mahmud's leadership appealed to both Kurdish nationalist and religious feelings. Although he knew he could not directly defeat the British, Shaykh Mahmud hoped to seek recognition of Kurdish nationalism by advocating a 'free united Kurdistan'. Using his authority as a religious leader, Shaykh Mahmud called for a jihad against the British in 1919 and thus acquired the support of many Kurds indifferent to the nationalist struggle. Although the intensity of their struggle was motivated by religion, Kurdish peasantry seized the idea of ''national and political liberty for all'' and strove for ''an improvement in their social standing''.
Despite opposition by other regional tribes, possibly fearful of the shaykh's growing power, Shaykh Mahmud's fighters continued to oppose British rule after the shaykh's arrest. Although no longer organized under one leader, this inter-tribal force was ''actively anti-British'', engaging in hit-and-run attacks, killing British military officers, and participating in another '' left the Turkish ranks to join the Kurdish army.
In response to the rebellion, the Turkish government, realizing the strength of Azadi, quickly arrested many of the organization's leaders, both . In creating a battle plan, Said and the other prominent remaining Azadi leadership established five major fronts to be commanded by regional shaykhs. These shaykh leaders were assisted by former Hamidiya Cavalry officers who provided military structure to the rebellion. After organization, unit responsibility was divided among nine areas. The overall headquarters of Said's military force was located in Egri Dagh and protected by a force of 2,000 men. During the onset of the revolt, Said's fighters, facing nearly 25,000 Turkish troops, gained control of a vilayet near Diyarbakir. Besides seizing Turkish land and acquiring additional munitions, early victories instilled confidence in the rebellion and garnered further Kurdish support.
Throughout the conflict, Said's fighters used both conventional military tactics, including multi-front assaults and attempts at urban seizure, and unconventional warfare, including guerrilla tactics. An example of the conventional military organization was evident in the assault on Diyarbakir, where reports saw ''three columns of 5,000 strong, under the personal command of Shaykh Said''. The establishment of conventional higher levels of Kurdish military command may also be assumed as documents Conditions also improved for Mulla Mustafa Barzani as he was eventually granted the privileges of a leader-in-exile. Throughout his years in the USSR, Barzani was able to broadcast via Soviet radio and attended courses in language and politics. Although many sources claim Barzani was given the rank of general in the Soviet Army, Massoud Barzani denies that this occurred. Possibly most important, however, was Barzani's ability to correspond with Kurdish exiles throughout the world, including Jalal Talabani and Ismet Cherif Vanly.
Meanwhile, the successful coup d'(C)tat of Brigadier Abd al Karim Qasim and his followers in Iraq in July 1958 opened a new chapter in Iraqi-Kurdish relations. Shortly after taking power, Qasim pardoned Shaykh Ahmad Barzani and allowed Mulla Mustafa, his followers, and his Peshmerga to return to Iraq. The Barzani exile in the Soviet Union ended after 12 years, and upon their return, the Peshmerga would once again play a prominent role in Iraqi regional politics.
In Modern Iraq (1958-2003)[edit]Barzani's Return to Iraq / Prelude to War (1958-1961)[edit]First Kurdish-Iraqi War (1961-1970)[edit]In September 1961, Kurdish leader Mustafah Barzani openly revolted against Baghdad's authority. He started with 600 followers, but by spring 1962 had 5,000 full-time guerillas and another 5-15,000 who could be called to assist for short periods of time. When he attacked in autumn 1961 he caught Iraqi government forces, principally the 2nd Division, unprepared. Qasim ordered a counterattack, and the 2nd Division was able to reverse most of the Kurdish gains before Barzani's forces were compelled to withdraw into the mountains during the winter of 1961-62.[9]
The Second Kurdish-Iraqi War (1974-1975)[edit]Secret negotiations between Barzani and Saddam Hussein led to the "March Manifesto". The agreement included a pledge from the Kurds to stop their rebellion, and in exchange the regime would allow the establishment of a Kurdish autonomous region in areas where the Kurds were a majority.[10] The agreement was to be implemented within four years.[11] However during those four years the regime encouraged the "Arabization" of the oil-rich Kurdish areas.[12] After decreasing the percentage of Kurds in the north for four years, the regime demanded the implementation of the manifesto. The Kurds weren't willing to implement it. After the ultimatum extended by the Ba'ath regime expired, the manifesto became a law on March 11, 1974.[13] Clashes between the rebels and the Iraqi security forces erupted immediately. The fighting cost the lives of 10,000 Iraqi soldiers.[14] The Iraqi army was unable to crush the rebellion because of Iran's continual assistance to the rebels, Tehran even deployed two divisions of the Iranian Army inside Iraq in January 1975.[15] Saddam Hussein, having committed to confrontation with the Kurds, was determined not to lose the fight.[14] In late 1974 he began negotiations with the Iranian ShahMohammad Reza Pahlavi.[16] An agreement was reached and signed by the sides during an OPEC summit in Algiers. The Agreement guaranteed that Iran would stop assisting the Kurdish rebels. In exchange Iraq agreed to demarcate the joint border with Iran according to the Constantinople Protocol of 1913. In the 1913 protocol the border line in the Shatt Al-Arab was in the middle (thalweg) of the waterway,[17] and not as was previously decided in 1937 between the countries. In the 1937 understanding Iraq's territorial water extended to most of the Shatt.
The Shah stopped the Iranian support to the rebels, withdrew his forces and sealed the border on April 1. The Iraqi army was able to crush the Peshmerga rebellion until the end of March.[14] Many leaders of the Kurds, including Mustafa Barzani fled to Iran and others to Turkey.[18]
Creation of the PUK (1975-1979)[edit]Main article: PUK insurgencyThe Political Bureau (or central committee) of the KDP, led by Ibrahim Ahmed and his son in law Jalal Talabani, broke off from the KDP in 1966. in 1975, the Politbureau joined with other groups to form the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). PUK quickly becoming the second biggest party in Northern Iraq, building its own force of Peshmerga.
The PUK and the KDP developed an intense rivalry that would even lead to war between the two factions.
The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)[edit]During the Iran''Iraq War the Peshmerga rebels sided with Iran against Iraq. The Peshmerga's support to Iran was an important factor in Iran's early success on the Northern Front (Iraqi Kurdistan) and led to several successful Iranian military offensives but despite their gains the Iranians were unable to take control of any cities or towns of significance. The Iraqi military responded to the Peshmerga rebels by launching various military campaigns against them, and ultimately employed the use of chemical weaponry which lead to military success against the Peshmerga, however this claimed the lives of almost 100,000 Kurds. As a result of the victory against the Peshmerga, the Iraqi military was able to recapture several towns including the oil-rich Majnoon Islands. The Iraqi military received support from the People's Mujahedin of Iran, an Iranian rebel organization, and tried to invade Khouzestan as well as attack the center of Iran, however both of these campaigns failed with only small gains made. Iraq and Iran entered into a ceasefire at that stage and ended the war. The Iranians pulled out of Northern Iraq and Iran stopped supporting the Kurds in Iraq.
Resistance to the Iraqi government continued for a few more months until the Peshmerga rebel forces were overthrown.
Peshmerga During Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991)[edit]In the wake of the First Persian Gulf War (aka "Operation Desert Storm": January to March 1991), various considerations led the United States to establish two "no-fly" zones in Iraq: one zone was in southern Iraq, where the Hussein regime had viciously persecuted the Shiite Arabs; the other zone was in the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. The Baghdad government was forbidden to operate any aircraft in either of these zones, a proscription enforced by United States and United Kingdom military assets in the region. Unable to use air power in the north, and with its conventional capabilities having been all but demolished during Desert Storm, Baghdad had little choice to but to sit by and witness the rebirth of the Kurdish self-governing region.
The 1991 Uprisings[edit]1991-1995[edit]The Kurdish Civil War (1995-1998)[edit]The civil war among the Peshmergas of the PUK and the KDP held up the military development of the Peshmerga as the attention was no longer on outside threats.
1998-2003[edit]After the 1998 ''Washington Agreement'', fighting between the KDP and the PUK Peshmerga came to an end. As active PUK Peshmerga put down their weapons, elder Peshmerga veterans began filling more political PUK roles. With the KDP increasingly led by Barzani family members, the political tension between the Kurdish parties remained.
The emergence of strict, militant Islamic groups such as the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan in northern Iraq had by then already been an additional source of fighting and political tension for some time. The international prominence of al-Qaeda following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the U.S. led to the Qaeda-brokered[citation needed] creation of Ansar al-Islam, which further exacerbated sectarian violence. Although sporadic fighting continued with the PKK (the Turkish-based Kurdish terrorist group), the PUK Peshmerga faced its largest threat from Ansar al-Islam, which was also supported by the Ba'athist government.[citation needed] Led by Mullah Krekar, a Kurd of strict Islamic faith, Ansar al-Islam was composed of over 500 guerrilla fighters, many of whom fled Afghanistan after the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom.
Although they had faced traditional military opposition from the Iraqis and mountain-based guerrilla tactics during inter-Kurdish fighting, the PUK Peshmerga had difficulty countering the fanatical assault of Ansar al-Islam. The foreign fighters used suicide attacks, assassinations, mines, bombs, and swords and machetes to not only kill the Peshmerga but to desecrate their bodies. Whereas Ansar al-Islam allegedly received support from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, the PUK Peshmerga had only the KDP forces as allies. Both parties were steadfast in their displeasure about the Ansar al-Islam presence. PUK commander Anwar Dolani, for example, asserted there is ''no room for terrorism in Iraqi Kurdistan'' and Massoud Barzani claimed Peshmerga forces did not need assistance to defeat the unwelcome militants. Despite Kurdish solidarity, U.S. preparations to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein brought welcome reinforcements to the conflict.
Peshmerga during Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003)[edit]The Peshmerga linked up with the CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD) and the U.S. Military's 10th Special Forces Group and prepared the battle space for conventional U.S. Military forces throughout Iraq. The first step was evicting the Ansar Al Islam from their enclave around the village of Biyara. This battle happened prior to the invasion in February 2003 and was carried out with officers from SAD and the U.S. Army's 10th Special Forces Group. Most Ansar al-Islam fighters were killed during this operation, but some escaped to Iran and later regrouped in Iraq as the Ansar al-Sunnah.
US and peshmerga spokesmen also claimed to have uncovered a chemical weapons facility at Sargat, the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war, which could not have been unnoticed by the government of Saddam Hussein.[19]
In addition, this team led the Peshmerga against Saddam's forces in the north. Their efforts kept the 5th Corps of Saddam's Army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than move to contest the coalition force coming from the south. The efforts of the SAD Paramilitary Officers and 10th Special Forces Group with the Kurds, likely saved hundreds if not thousands of lives of the coalition service men and women during and after the invasion.[20]
In the new Iraq (2003-Present)[edit]As an ally of the US-led coalition, Peshmerga forces fought side by side with American troops in the 2003 Iraq War in Iraqi Kurdistan. Since that time the Peshmerga have assumed full responsibility for the security of the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq. In late 2004, when Arab Iraqi Police and ING (Iraqi National Guard) units in the city of Mosul collapsed in the face of an insurgent uprising, Kurdish Peshmerga battalions, who had recently been converted into ING forces, led the counter-attack alongside US military units. To this day, there are a number of Kurdish battalions of former Peshmerga in the Iraqi Army serving in Northern Iraq. These unit are mostly part of the reformed 2nd Division (Iraq), stationed in Mosul.
In early 2005 it was speculated by Newsweek magazine that Peshmerga forces would be trained by the US to take on Sunni rebels in Iraq.
It was estimated that in 2005 there were 180,000 Peshmerga fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan, the article estimating their number to be 270,000 in total. A recent CBS News report places their number at 375,000.[citation needed]
In 2008 many Peshmerga soldiers were put into new formations under the interior ministry, one of which are the Zeravani whom are loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Back in 2008, the Zeravani was a force of 8000 soldiers, but have grown in numbers (to 25 000 as of 2011) and now operate seven bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan. One of the bases is a dedicated airbase for training on ultralight fixed-wing aircraft (Ikarus C42). The Zeravani forces are led by Brigadier General Aziz Waysi Bani.
The Peshmerga were an active partner in the American-led coalition in Iraq. Many Peshmerga are fluent in Arabic, in contrast to foreign coalition troops, and they therefore played an important role in the Sunni triangle of Central Iraq. On the strategic level the Peshmergas are ready to fight a guerrilla war of any invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In 2012 the Kurdish leadership put in effect a program to unify the Kurdish forces of PUK and KDP, both of which operated as separate armies inside the region before the unification. The unification program plans on having a total size of 18 brigades, which will be finalized by mid-2014.
The Peshmerga is organizing its own Special Operations Force (SOF) which will incorporate many of the Cobra battalions. The Cobra forces are elite infantry units inside Peshmerga. The Cobra forces can be found in many factions inside Peshmerga, including the Presidential brigade (in Baghdad, have three Cobra companies) and Intelligence battalion (Identical with the Presidential brigade, except it has a scout company equipped with the BRDM-2 armoured patrol car instead of the third cobra company). Many military experts also speculate that the EC120Bs and the MD530F which the KRG is getting might be used as helicopter support for the SOF brigade in the future. The new helicopters are officially destined for the interior police forces.
The Peshmerga have traditionally had a problem with funding, mainly due to their large size. The Peshmerga forces had no live training on their heavy weapons up until 2011 due to lack of ammunition. The problem was tackled after it was put on the media spotlight. Now all heavy weapon-formations have at least 320 hours of live-fire training and taken part in six large military exercises. The Kurdish leadership will also be cutting the size of Peshmerga to pave the way for a faster modernization of the Kurdish forces.
Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan said they had taken control of the city of Kirkuk and provided logistical assistance to Iraqi government troops, during the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by Sunni militants.[21]
Current equipment[edit]Unlike the other militias, the Peshmerga were not prohibited by the transitional government;[22] the Kurdish army has been formed out of the Peshmerga. They are usually armed with AKMs, RPKs (light Soviet machine guns) and DShKs (heavy Soviet machine guns).[23] During the American-led invasion the Peshmerga captured the rest of the arms of the Iraqi forces, consisting of more than 2,000 armored vehicles (some hundred of them PT-76s and a smaller number of T-55s) and an unknown number of artillery pieces.[23]
Small arms[edit]Anti-tank weaponry[edit]Man-portable air-defence system[edit]Vehicles[edit]Armored vehicles[edit]Logistics and utility vehicles[edit]Artillery[edit]Mortar[edit]Anti-aircraft gun[edit]Helicopters[edit]See also[edit]References[edit]^From the KurdishpªÅŸ (پێش) "before" and mergمەرگ "death".^Willing to face Death: A History of Kurdish Military Forces - the Peshmerga - from the Ottoman Empire to Present-Day Iraq, Michael G. Lortz^The New York Times, for example, uses the term "pesh merga"; see search results of archive.^Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, Atlantic Council, "The United States Should Reconsider the Kurds" [1]^Ambinder, Marc. "How the CIA really caught Bin Laden's trail"^Project Muse, "KRG's security sector including its military forces - Peshmerga"; see [2]^Meiselas, Susan. "Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History". University of Chicago Press, 2008^Farrokh, Kaveh. Iran at War: 1500-1988. Osprey Publishing, Dec 20, 2011^Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-91, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 2002, p.157, ISBN 0-8032-3733-2^Ephraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi-Karsh - Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (The Free Press, 1991). pp. 67-75.^Harris, George S. (1977). "Ethnic Conflict and the Kurds". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science433 (1): 118''120. doi:10.1177/000271627743300111. ^The introduction in Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (Human Rights Watch Report, 1993).^Kurdish Revolt in Iraq 1974-1975, Onwar.^ abcJoint intelligence analysis by the U.S. State Department, CIA and DIA from May 1, 1975 - The Implications of the Iran-Iraq agreement PDF (651 KB) .^J. M. Abdulaghani - Iraq and Iran: The Years of Crisis. Baltimore, The John Hopkinks University Press and London, Croom Helm, 1984. p. 142.^C. Kutchera - Le Mouvment national Kurde, Paris Flammarion, 1979. pp. 322-323.^The full text of the agreement^Korn, David A. (June 1994). "The Last Years of Mustafa Barzani". Middle East Quarterly: 13''24. ^Operation Hotel California, The Clandestine War inside Iraq, Mike Tucker and Charles Faddis, 2008.^Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, 2004^Fassihi, Farnaz, Ali A. Nabhan, and Tamer El-Ghobashy (June 12, 2014). "Iraq Scrambles to Defend Baghdad". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-13. ^Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq^ abLortz, Michael G. (28 November 2005). "Willing to Face Death: A History of Kurdish Military Forces - the Peshmerga - From the Ottoman Empire to Present-Day Iraq". Florida State University. Retrieved 1 July 2014. ^U.S. Department of Defense, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq (June 2007) p.30, p.39 p.30^ abMiddle East Military Balance^Iraq's T-72s: Payment Received^Holdanwicz, Grzegorz. "Iraqi armed forces get armoured vehicles". Jane's Defence Weekly^"Type 63 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun System". www.fas.org. Retrieved 4 August 2014. ^http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=kurdish-authority-buying-16-us-built-helicopters-from-saudi-firm-2006-07-19^http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2006/7/mediamonitor97.htm^http://iwpr.net/report-news/contract-buy-16-helicopters-signed^http://www.aknews.com/en/aknews/3/278818/^Video on YouTubeFurther reading[edit]Chapman, Dennis P., Lieutenant Colonel USA, Security Forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2011. ISSN 0026-3141 Reviewed by Michael M. Gunter in Middle East Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 3, Summer 2011.External links[edit]
Hoshyar Zebari - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:29
Hoshyar Zebari (also spelled Hoshyar Zubari/Zibari, Kurdish: Hişyar Zªbar®; born 1953) is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, who served the post from 2003 until 2014. A Kurd originally from Aqrah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zebari holds a masters degree in sociology from the University of Essex, England and studied political science in Jordan. He was the foreign spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the 1990s and represented the party to both the United Kingdom and the United States.
He was appointed Foreign Minister of Iraq in 2003 by the Iraqi Governing Council and held the post for the Iraqi Interim Government, Iraqi Transitional Government and the first permanent government.
In July 2012, \Zebari said that al-Qaeda in Iraq members went to Syria, where the militants previously received support and weapons.[1]
On 11 July 2014, Zaberi was replaced as foreign minister by Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's deputy prime minister, who assumed the position in an acting capacity, after Kurdish politicians withdrew from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.[2]
References[edit]^Karam, Zeina (07/6/2012). "Iraq: Al-Qaeda migrates to Syria". Associated Press. ^"Maliki replaces Kurdish foreign minister as Kurds seize two oil fields". Iraq News.Net. Retrieved 11 July 2014. External links[edit]PersondataNameZebari, HoshyarAlternative namesShort descriptionIraqi government ministerDate of birth1953Place of birthAqrah, IraqDate of deathPlace of death
Ahmed Chalabi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:15
Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi[1] (Arabic: أحمد اÙجÙبي'Ž) (born 30 October 1944) is an Iraqi politician. He was interim oil minister in Iraq[2] in April''May 2005 and December''January 2006 and deputy prime minister from May 2005 until May 2006. Chalabi failed to win a seat in parliament in the December 2005 elections, and when the new Iraqi cabinet was announced in May 2006, he was not given a post. Once dubbed the "George Washington of Iraq"[3] by American supporters, he has fallen out of favor and is currently under investigation by several U.S. government sources. He was also the subject of a 2008 biography by investigative journalistAram Roston, The Man Who Pushed America to War; The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi[4] and a 2011 biography by 60 Minutes producer Richard Bonin, "Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq".[5]
Chalabi is a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates,[6] provided a major portion of the information on which U.S. Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi a fabricator.[7] That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the U.S. government. Furthermore, Chalabi has been found guilty of the Petra banking scandal in Jordan (see below). In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.[8]
Initially, Chalabi enjoyed close political and business relationships with some members of the U.S. government, including some prominent neoconservatives within the Pentagon. Chalabi is said to have had political contacts within the Project for the New American Century, most notably with Paul Wolfowitz, a student of nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter, and Richard Perle. He also enjoyed considerable support among politicians and political pundits in the United States, most notably Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, who held him up as a notable force for democracy in Iraq.[9] He was a special guest of First Lady Laura Bush at the 2004 State of the Union Address.[10]
Background[edit]Chalabi is the son of a prominent Shi'a family, one of the wealthy power elite of Baghdad, where he was born. Chalabi left Iraq with his family in 1956 and spent most of his life in the United States and the United Kingdom. In the mid-1960s, he studied with cryptographerWhitfield Diffie at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics.[11] In 1969, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago under the direction of George Glauberman,[12] after which he took a position in the mathematics department at the American University of Beirut. He published three mathematics papers between 1973 and 1980, in the field of abstract algebra. His Erdős number is 6.[13]
In 1971, Chalabi married Leila Osseiran, daughter of Lebanese politician Adil Osseiran. They have four children.[14]
In 1977, he founded the Petra Bank in Jordan. In May 1989, the Governor of the Central Bank of Jordan, Mohammed Said Nabulsi, issued a decree ordering all banks in the country to deposit 35% of their reserves with the Central Bank.[15] Petra Bank was the only bank that was unable to meet this requirement. An investigation was launched which led to accusations of embezzlement and false accounting. The bank failed, causing a $350 million bail-out by the Central Bank.[16] Chalabi fled the country before the authorities could react. Chalabi was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian military tribunal. He faces 22 years in prison, should he again enter Jordan. Chalabi maintains that his prosecution was a politically motivated effort to discredit him. In May 2005, it was reported that King Abdullah II of Jordan had promised to pardon Chalabi, in part to ease the relations between Jordan and the new Iraqi government of which Chalabi was a member.[citation needed] According to one report, Chalabi proposed a $32 million compensation fund for depositers affected by Petra Bank's failure. The website for Petra Bank contains a press release stating that Chalabi would refuse the pardon.[17] Although he has always maintained the case was a plot to frame him by Baghdad, the issue was revisited later when the U.S. State Department raised questions about the INC's accounting practices. According to The New York Times, "Chalabi insisted on a public apology, which the Jordanians refused to give."[14]
Chalabi was also part of a three-man executive council for the umbrella Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), created in 1992 for the purpose of fomenting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Although the INC received major funding and assistance from the United States, it never had any influence or any following to speak of in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The INC's influence gradually waned until the December 2005 elections, in which it failed to win a single seat in Parliament.[citation needed]
He was involved in organizing a resistance movement among Kurds in northern Iraq in the early mid-1990s. When that effort was crushed and hundreds of his supporters were killed, Chalabi fled the country. Chalabi lobbied in Washington for the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act (passed October 1998), which earmarkedUS$97 million to support Iraqi opposition groups, virtually all of which was funneled through the INC.[citation needed]
Invasion of Iraq[edit]Before the war, the CIA was largely skeptical of Chalabi and the INC, but information allegedly from his group (most famously from a defector codenamed "Curveball") made its way into intelligence dossiers used by President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify an invasion of Iraq. "Curveball", Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, fed officials hundreds of pages of bogus "firsthand" descriptions of mobile biological weapons factories on wheels and rails. Secretary of StateColin Powell later used this information in a U.N. presentation trying to garner support for the war, despite warnings from German intelligence that "Curveball" was fabricating claims. Since then, the CIA has admitted that the defector made up the story, and Powell apologized for using the information in his speech.[18] A later congressionally appointed investigation (Robb-Silberman) concluded that Curveball had no relation whatsoever to the INC, and that press reports linking Curveball to the INC were erroneous.[19]
The INC often worked with the media, most notably with Judith Miller, concerning her WMD stories for The New York Times starting on 26 February 1998.[20] After the war, given the lack of discovery of WMDs, most of the WMD claims of the INC were shown to have been either misleading, exaggerated, or completely made up while INC information about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's loyalists and Chalabi's personal enemies were accurate. Another of Chalabi's advocates was American Enterprise Institute's Iraq specialist Danielle Pletka. Chalabi received advice on media and television presentation techniques from the Irish scriptwriter and commentator Eoghan Harris prior to the invasion of Iraq.[21]
As U.S. forces took control during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Chalabi returned under their aegis and was given a position on the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served as president of the council in September 2003. He denounced a plan to let the UN choose an interim government for Iraq. "We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq, but it is time for the Iraqi people to run their affairs," he was quoted as saying in The New York Times.[22]
In August 2003, Chalabi was the only candidate whose unfavorable ratings exceeded his favorable ones with Iraqis in a State Department poll.[23] In a survey of nearly 3,000 Iraqis in February 2004 (by Oxford Research International, sponsored by the BBC in the United Kingdom, ABC in the U.S., ARD of Germany, and the NHK in Japan), only 0.2 percent of respondents said he was the most trustworthy leader in Iraq (see survey link below, question #13). A secret document written in 2002 by the British Overseas and Defence Secretariat reportedly described Chalabi as "a convicted fraudster popular on Capitol Hill."[24]
In response to the WMD controversy, Chalabi told London's Daily Telegraph in February 2004, "We are heroes in error. As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat."[25]
During the period from March 2000 to September 2003, the U.S. State Department paid nearly $33 million to the Iraqi National Congress, according to a General Accounting Office report released in 2004.[26] Subsequently, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was paid about $335,000 per month by the Defense Intelligence Agency until 28 May 2004.
Falling out with the U.S. in 2004''2005[edit]As Chalabi's position of trust with the Pentagon crumbled, he found a new political position as a champion of Iraq's Shi'ites (Chalabi himself is a Shi'ite). Beginning 25 January 2004, Chalabi and his close associates promoted the claim that leaders around the world were illegally profiting from the Oil for Food program. These charges were around the same time that UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi indicated that Chalabi would likely not be welcome in a future Iraqi government. Up until this time, Chalabi had been mentioned formally several times in connection with possible future leadership positions. Chalabi contends that documents in his possession detail the misconduct, but he has yet to provide any documents or other evidence. The U.S. has sharply criticized Chalabi's Oil for Food investigation as undermining the credibility of its own.
Additionally, Chalabi and other members of the INC have been being investigated for fraud involving the exchange of Iraqi currency, grand theft of both national and private assets, and many other criminal charges in Iraq. On 19 May 2004 the U.S. government discontinued their regular payments to Chalabi for information he provided. Then on 20 May, Iraqi police supported by U.S. soldiers raided his offices and residence, taking documents and computers, presumably to be used as evidence. A major target of the raid was Aras Habib, Chalabi's long-term director of intelligence, who controls the vast network of agents bankrolled by U.S. funding.
In June 2004, it was reported that Chalabi gave U.S. state secrets to Iran in April, including the fact that one of the United States' most valuable sources of Iranian intelligence was a broken Iranian code used by their spy services. Chalabi allegedly learned of the code through a drunk American involved in the code-breaking operation. Chalabi has denied all of the charges, and nothing has ever come of the charges nor do the Iraqi or U.S. governments currently seem very interested in pursuing them.[27]
An arrest warrant for alleged counterfeiting was issued for Chalabi on 8 August 2004, while at the same time a warrant was issued on murder charges against his nephew Salem Chalabi (at the time, head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal), while they both were out of the country. Chalabi returned to Iraq on 10 August planning to make himself available to Iraqi government officials, but he was never arrested. Charges were later dropped against Ahmed Chalabi, with Judge Zuhair al-Maliki citing lack of evidence.
On 1 September 2004, Chalabi told reporters of an assassination attempt made on him near Latifiya, a town south of Baghdad. Chalabi reported he was returning from a meeting with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, where a few days earlier a cease-fire had taken effect, ending three weeks of confrontations between followers of Muqtada al-Sadr and the U.S. military, at the time.[citation needed]
He regained enough credibility to be made deputy prime minister on 28 April 2005. At the same time he was made acting oil minister,[28] before the appointment of Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum in May 2005. On protesting IMF austerity measures, Al-Uloum was instructed to extend his vacation by a month in December 2005 by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and Chalabi was reappointed as acting oil minister. Al-Uloum returned to the post in January 2006.[29]
In November 2005, Chalabi traveled to the U.S. and met with top U.S. government officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. At this time Chalabi also traveled to Iran to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Political activity in Iraq, 2005''present[edit]The Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmed Chalabi, was a part of the United Iraqi Alliance in the 2005 legislative election. After the election, Chalabi claimed that he had the support of the majority of elected members of United Iraqi Alliance and staked claim to be the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iraq; however, Ibrahim al-Jaafari later emerged as the consensus candidate for prime minister.[30]
Prior to the December 2005 elections, the Iraqi National Congress left the United Iraqi Alliance and formed the National Congress Coalition, which ran in the elections but failed to win a single seat in Parliament, gaining less than 0.5% of the vote. Other groups joining the INC in this list included: Democratic Iraqi Grouping, Democratic Joint Action Front, First Democratic National Party, Independent List, Iraqi Constitutional Movement, Iraqi Constitutional Party, Tariq Abd al-Karim Al Shahd al-Budairi, and the Turkoman Decision Party.
Chalabi attended the 2006 Bilderberg Conference meeting outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
In October 2007, Chalabi was appointed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to head the Iraqi services committee, a consortium of eight service ministries and two Baghdad municipal posts tasked with the "surge" plan's next phase, restoring electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods.[31] "The key is going to be getting the concerned local citizens'--and all the citizens'--feeling that this government is reconnected with them.... [Chalabi] agrees with that," said Gen. David Petraeus. Chalabi "is an important part of the process," said Col. Steven Boylan, Petraeus' spokesman. "He has a lot of energy."[31] In April 2008, journalist Melik Kaylan wrote about Chalabi, "Arguably, he has, more than anyone in the country, evolved a detailed sense of what ails Baghdadis and how to fix things."[32]
After the invasion Chalabi had been placed in charge of "deBaathification"'--the removal of senior office holders judged to have been close supporters of the deposed Saddam Hussein. The role had fallen into disuse but in early 2010 Chalabi was accused of reviving this dormant post to eliminate his political enemies, especially Sunnis. The banning of some 500 candidates prior to the general election of 7 March 2010 at the initiative of Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress was reported to have badly damaged previously improving relations between Shias and Sunnis.[33]
On 26 January 2012, the New York Times reported Western intelligence officials expressing concern that Chalabi was working with the leading opposition group in Bahrain, Al Wefaq National Islamic Society. A French intelligence official said, "When we hear that some members of the opposition are in touch with Hezbollah or with shady figures like the Iraqi Ahmed Chalabi, of whom we think he is acting on behalf of Iran, then this worries us". The connection between Chalabi and Al Wefaq was acknowledged by Jawad Fairooz, secretary general of Wefaq and a former member of Parliament in Bahrain. Fairooz said, "Mr Chalabi has helped us with contacts in Washington like other people have done and we thank them."[34]
References[edit]^Sometimes transcribed as Ahmad al-Jalabi.^Chalabi Named Iraq Oil Minister^The New Republic, Are Foreign Rebel Leaders Duping The American Right, Again?, 11 August 2003^The Man Who Pushed America to War; The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi^Miller, Laura (5 December 2011). ""Arrows of the Night": The man behind the Iraq War". Salon. Retrieved 13 January 2013. ^Adam Roston, Chalabi's LobbyThe Nation 3 April 2008^The Scribe: Michael Isikoff & David Corn: "Hubris." Cherrypicking intelligence, burying dissent, influence of Iranian intelligence, the President with an agenda, government experts who didn't speak up^Souad Mekhennet, In Bahrain, Worries Grow of Violent Shiite-Sunni Confrontation, 25 January 2012, New York Times, [1]^"Iraqi minister: Chalabi will be arrested: One-time U.S. confidant to face bank fraud charges in Jordan."CNN. 22 January 2005. Accessed 20 January 2008.^Special Guests of Mrs. Bush at the State of the Union^Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption, MIT Press, 1998, p. 108.^Dissertation title: On the Jacobson Radical of a Group Algebra, see Ahmed Chalabi at the Mathematics Genealogy Project^Jerry Grossman. "The Erd¶s Number Project". Oakland University. 5 April 2013. Accessed 8 April 2013.^ abDexter Filkins. "Where Plan A left Ahmad Chalabi". The New York Times. 3 November 2006. Accessed 20 January 2008.^Aram Roston (1 January 2009). The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, and Obessions of Ahmad Chalabi. Nation Books. pp. 52''. ISBN 978-0-7867-4429-9. ^Jeremy Scott-Joynt (17 April 2003). "Chalabi's chequered finances". BBC News. Retrieved 16 October 2013. ^Response to press reports about the resolution of Petra bank case at the Wayback Machine (archived January 5, 2007). INC Press Statement. Undated. Page dated 5 January 2005 archived at Wayback Machine Internet Archive. Accessed 20 January 2008.^Citation needed^Miller, Greg; Drogin, Bob (1 April 2005). "Intelligence Analysts Whiffed on a 'Curveball'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 3 August 2007. Retrieved 24 July 2007. ^William J. Broad and Judith Miller. "The Deal on Iraq: Secret Arsenal: Hunt for the Germs of War -- A special report.; Iraq's Deadliest Arms: Puzzles Breed Fears". New York Times. 26 February 1998. Accessed 20 January 2008.^"Iraq: Reduced To A State Of Nature In The Name Of Progress". Editorial. Irish Political Review. December 2006. Accessed 20 January 2008.^David Sanger [2] THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAQ: THE EXILE; A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare, 21 May 2004.^Larry Diamond. Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq. New York: Times Books, Henry Holt & Co., 2005. p. 45.^Smith, Michael (24 September 2004). "Ministers were told premier was seen as stooge". The Daily Telegraph (London). ^Michael Smith. "Ministers were told premier was seen as stooge". The Daily Telegraph. 23 September 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.^"State Department: Issues Affecting Funding of Iraqi National Congress Support Foundation". Report to Congressional Requsters. United States General Accounting Office. April 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.^James Risen and David Johnston. " The Reach of War: The Offense; Chalabi Reportedly Told Iran That U.S. Had Code". New York Times. 2 June 2004. Accessed 20 January 2008.^Chalabi Named Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Acting Oil Minister^Iraqi oil minister Al Uloum back at work after quitting^Iraq's Shiite ticket picks prime minister^ abNancy A. Youssef. "Chalabi back in action in Iraq". McClatchy Newspapers. 28 October 2007. Accessed 20 January 2008.^Perseverance Pays Off in Baghdad, Melik Kaylan, The Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2008^The Economist, 30 January 2010^Souad Mekhennet (25 Janıary 2012). "In Bahrain, Worries Grow of Violent Shiite-Sunni Confrontation". New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2012. PersondataNameChalabi, AhmedAlternative namesShort descriptionIraqi politicianDate of birth30 October 1944Place of birthKadhimiya, IraqDate of deathPlace of death
Nouri al-Maliki - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:02
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki (Arabic: نÙري كام٠محمد Ø­Ø"ن اÙماÙكي'Ž; born 20 June 1950), also known as Jawad al-Maliki (جÙاد اÙماÙكي) or Abu Esraa (أب٠إØ"راØ), is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. He is currently in his second term as Prime Minister. His first Cabinet was approved by the National Assembly and sworn in on 20 May 2006; his second Cabinet, in which he also holds the positions of acting Interior Minister, acting Defense Minister, and acting National Security Minister, was approved on 21 December 2010.
Al-Maliki began his political career as a Shia dissident under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in the late 1970s and rose to prominence after he fled a death sentence into exile for 24 years. During his time abroad, he became a senior leader of Dawa, coordinated the activities of anti-Saddam guerrillas and built relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials whose help he sought in overthrowing Saddam. Al-Maliki worked closely with United States and coalition forces in Iraq since their departure by the end of 2011. In June 2014, the United States has asked for Maliki to give up his premiership.
Early life and education[edit]Nouri Al-Maliki was born in Janaja village in Abu Gharaq, a central Iraqi town situated between Karbala and Al Hillah. He is a member of the Al-Ali Tribe, an offshoot of the Bani Malik tribe.[citation needed] He attended school in Al Hindiyah (Hindiya). Al-Maliki received a bachelor's degree at Usul al-Din College in Baghdad, and a master's degree in Arabic literature from Baghdad University.[1] Al-Maliki lived for a time in Al Hillah, where he worked in the education department. He joined the Islamic Dawa Party in the late 1960s while studying at university. His grandfather, Muhammad Hasan Abi al-Mahasin, was a poet and cleric who was the representative of the Revolutionary Council (Al-Majlis Al-Milli) of the Iraqi revolution against the British in 1920, and served as Iraq's Minister of Education under King Faisal I.[2]
Exile and return to Iraq[edit]On 16 July 1979, al-Maliki fled Iraq after he was discovered to be a member of the outlawed Islamic Dawa Party. According to a brief biography on the Islamic Dawa Party's website, he left Iraq via Jordan in October, and soon moved to Syria, adopting the pseudonym "Jawad". He left Syria for Iran in 1982, where he lived in Tehran until 1990, before returning to Damascus where he remained until U.S. coalition forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam's regime in 2003.[3] While living in Syria, he worked as a political officer for Dawa, developing close ties with Hezbollah and particularly with Iran, supporting that country's effort to topple Saddam's regime.[4]
While living in Damascus, al-Maliki edited the party newspaper Al-Mawqif and rose to head the party's Damascus branch. In 1990, he joined the Joint Action Committee and served as one of its rotating chairman. The committee was a Damascus-based opposition coalition for a number of Hussein's opponents.[3] The Dawa Party participated in the Iraqi National Congress between 1992 and 1995, withdrawing because of disagreements over who should head it.[5] Upon his return to his native Iraq after the fall of Saddam, al-Maliki became the deputy leader of the Supreme National Debaathification Commission of the Iraqi Interim Government, formed to purge former Baath Party officials from the military and government. He was elected to the transitional National Assembly in January 2005. He was a member of the committee that drafted the new constitution that was passed in October 2005.
Premiership[edit]In the December 2005 parliamentary elections, the United Iraqi Alliance won the plurality of seats, and nominated Ibrahim al-Jaafari to be Iraq's first full-term post-war prime minister. In April 2006, amid mounting criticism of ineffective leadership and favoritism by Kurdish and Sunni Arab politicians in parliament, al-Jaafari was forced from power. On 22 April 2006, following close U.S. involvement in the selection of a new prime minister, al-Maliki's name arose from the four that had been interviewed by the CIA on their connections to Iran (the others including Hussein al-Shahristani and Ali al-Adeeb).[citation needed]United States Ambassador to IraqZalmay Khalilzad said that "[Maliki's] reputation is as someone who is independent of Iran." Khalilzad also maintained that Iran "pressured everyone for Jaafari to stay".[6] More recently, however, it has been claimed that al-Maliki was the preferred candidate of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, and that it was Soleimani who brokered the deal between senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders that lead to his election as Prime Minister.[7] On 20 May 2006, al-Maliki presented his Cabinet to Parliament, minus permanent ministers of Defense and of Interior. He announced that he would temporarily handle the Interior Ministry himself, and Salam al-Zobaie would temporarily act as Defense Minister. "We pray to God almighty to give us strength so we can meet the ambitious goals of our people who have suffered a lot", al-Maliki told the members of the assembly.[8] In May 2007, Dawa removed Jaafari and elected Maliki as Secretary-General of the Dawa Party.[9]
During his first term, al-Maliki vowed to crack down on insurgents who he called "organized armed groups who are acting outside the state and outside the law". He had been criticized for taking too long to name permanent interior and defense ministers, which he did on 8 June 2006,[10] just as al-Maliki and the Americans announced the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.[11][12] Meanwhile, al-Maliki criticized coalition armed forces as reports of allegedly deliberate killings of Iraqi civilians (at Haditha and elsewhere) became known. He has been quoted as saying, "[t]his is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It's unacceptable." According to Ambassador Khalilzad, al-Maliki had been misquoted, but it was unclear in what way.[13]
On 30 December 2006, al-Maliki signed the death warrant of Saddam Hussein and declined a stay of execution, saying there would be "no review or delay" in the event. Citing the wishes of relatives of Hussein's victims, he said, "Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him."[14] Hussein's execution was carried out on 30 December 2006 (notably, the first Muslim day of the feast of Eid ul-Adha). After only two years, the al-Malki government had witnessed improvements in the security situation in many parts of the country. In Baghdad, a peace deal signed between Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the government had eased tensions, though sporadic sectarian incidents continued, as did occasional fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite militiamen, particularly in Sadr City.[15] Maliki's job was complicated by the balance of power within parliament, with his position relying on the support of two Shiite blocs, that of Sadr and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, that his Dawa party has often been at odds with.[16] Progress was also frequently blocked by Sunni Arab politicians who alleged that the dominant Shiite parties were pursuing sectarian advantage. Maliki had some success in finding compromise. In July 2008, al-Maliki, who earlier in the year fought off a recall effort in parliament, convinced Sunni politicians to end a year-long boycott of the chamber and appointed some of them to cabinet positions. Analysts said the return of the Sunnis was made possible by the security gains under al-Maliki and by apparent progress in negotiations with the United States over American military withdrawal.[17] Early in his term, al-Maliki was criticized by some for alleged reluctance to tackle Shiite militias. In 2006, he complained about an American raid against a Shiite militia leader because he said it had been conducted without his approval.[18] In 2007, unnamed U.S. military officers alleged al-Maliki was replacing Iraqi commanders who had cracked down on Shiite militias with party loyalists. An al-Maliki spokesman denied the allegation.[19]
His relationship with the press was often contentious. On 24 August 2006, for example, he banned television channels from broadcasting images of bloodshed in the country and warned of legal action against those violating the order. Major General Rashid Flayah, head of a national police division added "...We are building the country with Kalashnikovs and you should help in building it with the use of your pen".[20] The international Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to al-Maliki complaining of a "disturbing pattern of restrictions on the press" and of the "imprisonment, intimidation, and censorship of journalists".[21]
Maliki talked about the need to make a secure and sustainable environment for investment in order for successful reconstruction and has enacted new investment laws to try to achieve this. He also acknowledged Iraq's unfortunate reliance on oil to finance reconstruction thus far, although the revenue began to be spent on other possible revenue sources including agriculture and energy.[22] On 2 January 2007, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with al-Maliki in which he said he wished he could end his term before it expires in 2009.[23]
On 21 December 2010, al-Maliki's government was unanimously approved by parliament more than 9 months after the 2010 parliamentary election. On 5 February 2011, a spokesperson for al-Maliki said he would not run for a third term in 2014 limiting himself in the name of democracy in a nod to the Arab Spring.[24] In December 2011, Maliki was embroiled in a deep political crisis with Sunni opponents including Tariq al-Hashemi.[25]
Relationship with U.S.[edit]In an interview published by the German magazine Der Spiegel in June 2008, al-Maliki said that a schedule for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country of "about 16 months... would be the right time-frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes". In the interview, he said the U.S. government has been reluctant to agree to a timetable "because they feel it would appear tantamount to an admission of defeat. But that isn't the case at all... it is not evidence of a defeat, but of a victory, of a severe blow we have inflicted on Al Qaeda and the militias." He said U.S. negotiators were coming around to his point of view.[26]Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin were two of several U.S. politicians who called for him to be removed from office in 2007. Senator Clinton urged Iraq's parliament to select a "less divisive and more unifying figure" and implied she felt al-Maliki was too concerned about Iraq's Shiite majority and not enough with national reconciliation. "During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Levin ... confirmed that the Iraqi government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders", she said.[27] Maliki hit back and said the Democraticsenators were acting as if Iraq were "their property" and that they should "come to their senses" and "respect democracy".[28] After 17 Iraqis were shot and killed by Blackwater USA security guards al-Maliki called on the U.S. embassy to stop working with the company and said: "What happened was a crime. It has left a deep grudge and anger, both inside the government and among the Iraqi people."[29]
Maliki's friendly gestures towards Iran have sometimes created tension between his government and the United States but he has also been willing to consider steps opposed by Tehran, particularly while carrying out negotiations with the United States on a joint-security pact. A June 2008 news report noted that al-Maliki's visit to Tehran seemed to be "aimed at getting Iran to tone down its opposition and ease criticism within Iraq". Al-Maliki said an agreement reached with the U.S. won't preclude good relations with neighbors like Iran.[30] In August 2007, CNN reported that the firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers had "begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki". The network described BGR as a "powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House".[31] CNN also mentioned that Ayad Allawi is both al-Maliki's rival and BGR's client, although it did not assert that Allawi had hired BGR to undermine al-Maliki.[31]
Relationship with Saudi Arabia[edit]King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was described in a leaked March 2009 diplomatic cable:
The King said he had "no confidence whatsoever in (Iraqi PM) Maliki, and the Ambassador (Fraker) is well aware of my views." The King affirmed that he had refused former President Bush's entreaties that he meet with Maliki. The King said he had met Maliki early in Maliki's term of office, and the Iraqi had given him a written list of commitments for reconciliation in Iraq, but had failed to follow through on any of them. For this reason, the King said, Maliki had little credibility. "I don't trust this man," the King stated, "He's an Iranian agent." The King said he had told both Bush and former Vice president Cheney "how can I meet with someone I don't trust?" Maliki has "opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq" since taking power, the King said, and he was "not hopeful at all" for Maliki, "or I would have met with him."[32]
Official visits[edit]On 13 June 2006, U.S. PresidentGeorge W. Bush paid a visit to Baghdad to meet with al-Maliki and President of IraqJalal Talabani, as a token of support for the new government.[33] During this visit, they announced the Iraqi Leaders Initiative, in which students from Iraq would go to the United States to build a personal connection between the two countries.[34] On 25 June, al-Maliki presented a national reconciliation plan to the Iraqi parliament. The peace plan sets out to remove powerful militias from the streets, open a dialogue with rebels, and review the status of purged members of the once dominant Ba'ath party. Some viewed this as a bold step towards rebuilding Iraq and reaching out to Sunnis.[35]
By July 2006, when al-Maliki visited the United States, violence had continued and even escalated, leading many to conclude that the reconciliation plan was not working or was moving too slowly. On 26 July 2006, al-Maliki addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.[36] Several New York Democrats boycotted the speech after Al-Maliki condemned Israel's attack on Lebanon. Howard Dean, the DNC chairman, accused Al-Maliki of being an "anti-Semite" and said the United States shouldn't spend so much on Iraq and then hand it over to people like al-Maliki.[37]
In September 2006, Al-Maliki made his first official visit to neighbouring Iran, whose alleged influence on Iraq is a matter of concern for Washington, D.C. He discussed with Iranian officials, including president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the "principle of no interference in internal affairs" during his visit on 11 and 12 September 2006, i.e., political and security issues. His visit closely followed an incident in which Iran detained Iraqi soldiers it accused of having illegally crossed the border. Ibrahim Shaker, Iraqi defence ministry spokesman, said the five soldiers, one officer and one translator involved had simply been doing "their duty".[38] During his visit al-Maliki called the Islamic Republic of Iran "a good friend and brother." A press conference given by al-Maliki and U.S. President George Bush on 14 December 2008, was disrupted when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al Zaidithrew his shoes at Bush.[39]
Personal life[edit]On 26 April 2006, al-Maliki stopped using the pseudonym Jawad which he had used since moving to Syria in the early 1980s.[40] However, the pseudo- or code name "Abu Esraa" (father of Esraa '' his eldest daughter) is still heard on Iraqi satellite media every now and then, because it is very common in Arabic culture (and in Iraqi culture in particular) to call someone with his eldest son/daughter's name especially by his close friends and followers. Al-Maliki is married to Faleeha Khalil, with whom he had three daughters and one son. He was also referred to as an underwear salesmen by both the Syrian regime and ISIS, with the Syrian regime saying "the underwear salesmen is accusing us of letting al qaeda slip into Iraq" and ISIS when they produced propaganda against him.
Rejected "Third Term" Law[edit]On 26 January 2013 Maliki's opponents passed a law[41] which prohibits Maliki from running for a third term but an Iraqi court later rejected it.[42]
See also[edit]References[edit]^Cole, Juan (1998). "Saving Iraq: Mission impossible". Salon. Retrieved 8 June 2006. ^The Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-Maliki Biography, iraqigovernment.org^ ab"Leader Description". Islamic Dawa Party. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^New Iraqi Leader Seeks Unity at the Wayback Machine (archived November 25, 2011) Christian Science Monitor^The Iraqi Shiites at the Wayback Machine (archived December 14, 2003) Boston Review, Juan Cole^David Ignatius, "In Iraq's Choice, A Chance For Unity", The Washington Post, 26 April 2006.^Filkins, Dexter. "The Shadow Commander" The New Yorker, 30 September 2013^"Iraq's new unity government sworn in". CNN. 20 May 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^Sawt al-Iraq, writing in Arabic, Informed Comment, 14 May 2007^"Bombs kill 7, wound dozens in Iraq". CNN. 2 June 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006. ^"Iraq appoints security ministers". CNN. 8 June 2006. Retrieved 8 June 2006. ^Sally Buzbee, Associated Press (8 June 2006). "For Iraq's prime minister, a good-news day". Raleigh News and Observer. Retrieved 8 June 2006. ^"White House Says Iraqi Leader Misquoted". Forbes. Associated Press. 2 June 2006. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2006. ^Saddam hanged by Times Online^Thousands of Sadr Supporters Mourn Lawmaker | AP^Semple, Kirk (20 October 2006). "Attack on Iraqi City Shows Militia's Power". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. ^Zavis, Alexandra; Salman, Raheem (20 July 2008). "Sunni bloc returns to Iraq Cabinet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 December 2011. ^"Doubts Grow Over Iraq's Prime Minister". Time. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2010. ^"Shadowy Iraq office accused of sectarian agenda". CNN. Retrieved 20 May 2010. ^Iraq PM bans TV from showing attacks at the Wayback Machine (archived October 21, 2006), The Sunday Times, 24 August 2006^"CPJ Protest Letter". CPJ. 6 June 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"Nouri al-Maliki Interview". The Diplomat. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"Iraq's PM longs to leave office". BBC. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. ^"Eye on unrest, Iraq PM says he won't seek 3rd term". Associated Press. 5 February 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^The US Exits, Iraq TeetersGlobal Bearings, 22 December 2011.^"Special Interview with Iraqi Leader Nouri al-Maliki". Der Spiegel. 19 July 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"Clinton urges ouster of Iraq's Al-Maliki". MSNBC. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"Maliki returns fire at U.S. critics". BBC News. 26 August 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. ^Wire Reports (20 September 2007). "Iraqi leader suggests U.S. Embassy cut ties with Blackwater". USA Today. Retrieved 7 October 2007. ^"al-Maliki Assures Tehran that U.S.-Iraq security pact will not harm Iran". International Herald Tribune. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^ ab"Major Republican Firm Lobbying To Undermine Maliki". CNN. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^American Embassy Riyadh (22 March 2009). "COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER BRENNAN'S MEETING WITH". ^Abramowitz, Michael (13 June 2006). "Bush Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 June 2006. ^"President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq Participate in Press Availability". Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. ^"Al al-Maliki's Reconciliation Plan Ready". Gulf News. 25 June 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2006. ^"Iraqi PM to Congress: Baghdad wants to be regional stabilizer". CNN. 26 June 2006. Archived from the original on 21 September 2006. Retrieved 26 2006. ^Trish Turner and Molly Hooper (26 July 2006). "Dean Calls Iraqi Prime Minister Anti-Semite, Criticizes Bush For U.S. Visit". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 26 November 2006. ^"Iraq PM will visit Iran Monday". Iraq updates. 9 September 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"Iraqis demand shoe-thrower be freed". Al Jazeera. 15 December. Retrieved 2 December 2011. ^"New prime minister resorts to old name". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. 27 April 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2006. [dead link]^H Al Researcher (11 February 2013). "Al-Maliki Does Not Get a Third Term in Iraq, so what? | eSPecial View". Especialview.wordpress.com. ^"Iraq court rejects law that would impose term limits on prime minister". Fox News Channel. 27 August 2013. External links[edit]PersondataNameAl-Maliki, NouriAlternative namesAl-Maliki, Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan; Al-Maliki, Jawad; Esraa, AbuShort descriptionPrime Minister of IraqDate of birth20 June 1950Place of birthAl-Hindaya, IraqDate of deathPlace of death
The Rebel - Home of the Goyim Resistance - Iraq: The real strategy is about to succeed
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 03:02
''The events that are taking place in Iraq are an illustration of a complete failure of the venture started by the US and the UK that allowed it to spiral out of control completely'' Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told journalists.
Mr. Lavrov, I'm sure, knows better and is merely speaking for the press regarding the stated goals of the Iraq war. For the Anglo-Americans and their Israeli cohorts knew full well even before the 2003 invasion what they were doing and what the outcome would be. Very possibly, Mr. Lavrov never read my Oct. 2nd, 2005 predictions of Iraq's fate in a Media Monitors article entitled ''The End'' (http://usa.mediamonitors.net/Headlines/The-End):
''What has been the end of the Neocon's Iraq strategy from the start?...For some two years prior to the Iraq war, in Council of Foreign Relations and other elite circles, stories were circulated about the benefits of partitioning Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions for the benefit of the "Greater Mid East" (read instead: "Eretz Israel")...This could lead to a bloody civil war--easily anticipated prior to the U.S. invasion--and probably leave the Israelis in control of the majority of Iraq's oil through proxies in a future Kurdistan'...A depopulated, destroyed Iraq will be in no position to prevent the diversion of its oil supplies and water from the Tigris and Euphrates to Eretz Israel. Further, the conflict could spill over into Syria and Iran and other regional states, possibly drawing them into a conflict reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq war.''
This is coming to pass as you read this. With the Kurdish seizure of Kirkuk'--effectively asserting control of much of the country's oil wealth (much oil already being sold outside the aegis of the Iraqi central government anyway) for their Israeli patrons'--and conquest of Sunni areas by ISIL/ISIS/Takfiri elements (enriched by a curious $450-million bank heist and much ''captured'' American-supplied military equipment) I contend that the real goal of the Iraq invasion and Israeli/Anglo-American policy is about to be realized'--the partition of Iraq.
The entry of the Iranian elite Revolutionary Guard into the fray at this late date is a good indication of this'--the pretext of keeping Iraq in one piece under Shiia control kept Iran on the sidelines during the Purim 2003 invasion of Iraq (which would have turned it into a regional conflict not wanted by U.S. allies at the time'--the so-called ''Coalition of the Willing.'') In 2003, Iran could probably not believe their good fortune as the U.S. destruction of Saddam virtually handed control of Iraq to the Shiia'--turning Iraq from a dangerous foe into an ally!
From Israel's standpoint, the latest Iranian move comes at a good time. They really want to control the oil and the Iranians and Anglo-Americans can slug it out with each other and with ISIS/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Syria) and the Takfiris to prevent them trying to retake the oil fields. Cut off from oil revenues, the Sunni and, to a lesser extent, the Shiia areas will become depopulated and ''wither on the vine.'' The Iranian involvement can also serve Israel's interests by giving it a pretext to strike Iranian military and nuclear targets.
The Israeli public stance, then, is predictable. Rov Tov, in his latest piece, quotes a lengthy analysis in the Israeli publication Yediot Ahronot, by its ''connected'' military analyst Ron ben Yishai, a former IDF lieutenant colonel. Tov comments that ben Yishai is saying, in effect, that "If America does nothing, Israel will fall, and afterwards Europe."
We are seeing the false dominoes of the Vietnam War laid out for the U.S. once again'--this time by their Israeli ''ally''. If the U.S. fails to intervene to protect Israel's interests at this juncture, we are to believe, the states of Europe could fall, one by one, becoming part of the greater Takfriri ''Caliphate.''
CFR, OTHERS LONG PUSHED FOR SEPARATIONEchoing a long-held position of the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) prior to the Iraq war, Leslie Gelb, PhD, President Emeritus of the CFR, stated in a Nov. 25, 2003 New York Times article titled "The Three-State Solution":
"President Bush's new strategy of transferring power quickly to Iraqis, and his critics' alternatives, share a fundamental flaw: all commit the United States to a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities. That has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force...
The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiite in the South'...Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed, and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would allow us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past."
As a U.S. Senator, Joe Biden carried the CFR's (and Israel's) water on this issue. According to a CFR backgrounder authored by Greg Bruno on Oct. 27th, 2007:
''A non-binding resolution that sailed through the U.S. Senate in September 2007 reignited debate over Iraq's political future. Introduced by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) and Sam Brownback, (R-KS), the measure calls for a decentralized Iraqi government ''based upon the principles of federalism'' and advocates for a relatively weak central government with strong Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regional administrations. The bill, based on a proposal first introduced by Biden and CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb, passed the Senate by a 75 to 23 margin. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Chris Dodd (D-CT), rivals in a crowded presidential field that includes Sen. Biden, both supported the amendment.''
The Biden-Brownback plan was borne of a broader five-point strategy Biden and Gelb introduced in May 2006. But this so-called ''federalism'' scheme was seen by many Mid East experts as doomed to failure and merely a back door to partition of Iraq. According to the CFR, Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, doubted security forces could function under federalism'--and ridiculed the idea of a ''soft'' partition in Iraq'--he saw any partition as being ''hard'' and bloody, filled with human suffering.
The 500,000 new refugees and the 1700 soldiers and civilians just brutally executed by the Takfiris in Iraq can now confirm this estimate to Joe Biden, now U.S. Vice President.
Kerry in Erbil for Tough Sell to Iraq's Kurds
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:28
Kerry and Barzani exchange greetings before going into a meeting. Photo: AFP
By Raed Asad Ahmed and Rekar Aziz
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region '' US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Erbil Tuesday to try to urge the autonomous Kurds not to quit the political process in Baghdad, after promising ''sustained and intense'' support to counter a blitz by Sunni militants that threatens to splinter Iraq.
Iraq has been plunging deeper into turmoil since insurgents that include the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured its second-largest city, Mosul, a fortnight ago, starting a juggernaut that has seen the Iraqi army collapse and large cities and territories falling to the rebels.
In Baghdad on Monday, embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised Kerry he would form a new government by July 1, following recent elections that preceded the current crisis, as militants reportedly captured the Baiji refinery, the country's largest.
There were still conflicting reports about whether government forces or the rebels were in control of the oil facility in the country's north.
In Erbil, Kerry went into a meeting with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani to urge the Kurds '' who have no love lost for the Shiite Maliki and have said he must step down instead of seeking a third term -- to help in the formation of a new Iraqi government.
Kurdish support will be key to hold Iraq together.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), on the other hand, has moved its Peshmerga military into vast territories outside its official borders to secure Kurdish-inhabited areas left vacant by a wholesale retreat of the Iraqi army.
That includes the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds consider the capital of a future state.
Convincing the Kurds will be a tough sell for Kerry, because for years Erbil has had nothing but problems with Baghdad. In a CNN interview aired Monday, Barzani said ''it is time now for the Kurdistan people to determine their future,'' the strongest statement he has made regarding independence.
"Iraq is obviously falling apart anyway, and it's obvious that a federal or central government has lost control over everything," Barzani told CNN.
In Baghdad, Kerry said US support would work only if Iraq remains together.
"The support will be intense and sustained and if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective,'' Kerry told reporters.
Although the Kurds have Kirkuk, whose oil revenues would surpass anything they could get from staying part of Iraq, their Peshmerga forces also have been facing attacks in areas they recently moved into.
On Monday morning, two Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off on the Rabia border crossing between Iraq and Syria, killing one Kurdish soldier and injuring six of his colleagues, Peshmerga officer Muzaffar Silkayi said.
Peshmerga forces took over the checkpoint after the Iraqi army deserted its positions. ISIS militants, who are fighting both in Iraq and Syria, are already in control of two Iraqi border crossings to Syria. The goal of the rebels is to establish an Islamic state that straddle Iraq and Syria.
''The situation in the rest of the Kurdistan Region is calm, but the deployment of the Peshmerga forces to new areas is a new experiment for us,'' said Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hikmat. ''It will take some time before we can stop these attacks against our forces,'' he told Rudaw.
Later Monday, another IED targeted Kurdish forces in Rabia, killing three more Peshmerga soldiers and injuring two.
The Kurds, who appear to be emerging as the only winners from the turmoil threatening to drown Iraq, have received other threats from Shiite militias and radical leaders, who have accused them of being behind the unfolding crisis, an allegation Erbil has denied.
Abu Waris Musawi, spokesman of a militia formed during the Syrian crisis to protect sacred Shiite shrines in Iraq and Syria, sent a televised warning to Barzani over the weekend against annexing Kirkuk.
''We have rockets capable of reaching the center of Erbil city,'' he said Saturday on al-Anwar TV.
''We do not listen to these threats and the Kurdistan Regional Government has its own strategy for protecting the Kurdistan Region,'' said Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry.
The Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, the first to respond to calls by Maliki and Iraq's highest Shiite authorities to take up arms, last week vowed to fight the Kurds as well as the Sunni extremists.
The Kurdistan Region, which has its own government, parliament, army and constitution, remains the only peaceful and economically prospering portion of Iraq.
ebril engdahl - Google Search
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:26
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William Engdahl '-- RT Op-Edge - RT.comOpinion pieces by William Engdahl, award-winning geopolitical analyst and ...US jets conduct new rounds of airstrikes in Iraq near Erbil ... William Engdahl.Kerry in Erbil for Tough Sell to Iraq's Kurds - Rudawrudaw.net/mobile/english/kurdistan/24062014?ctl00...5_5- CachedJun 24, 2014 ...ERBIL, Kurdistan Region '' US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in .... MiddleEast Project" According to Engdahl "The ultimate goal of the ...A Surprise Boost for Euro from China , by F. William Engdahlwww.voltairenet.org/article167171.html- CachedOct 6, 2010 ... by F. William Engdahl. The embattled Euro has gotten ..... Maliki slams Erbil forhosting Islamic Emirate headquarters. 199. Negotiate! Current ...G20 - Make or break? (video), by F. William Engdahlwww.voltairenet.org/article159523.html- CachedApr 1, 2009 ...Engdahl says that, "the problem is that the G20 is an arbitrary construct that was... Maliki slams Erbil for hosting Islamic Emirate headquarters.1 person named Susannah Erbil in the US | WhitePagesnames.whitepages.com/Susannah/Erbil- CachedThere is 1 person named Susannah Erbil in places like Massachusetts. ... #82,044,201 Susannah Engdahl; #82,044,202 Susannah England; #82,044,203 ...No Afghanistan Withdrawal in 2011 - Engdahl: "US will Expand War"www.dailykos.com/.../-No-Afghanistan-Withdrawal-in-2011-Engdahl-US- will-Expand-War- CachedAug 18, 2010 ... Based in Germany, Engdahl contributes regularly to a number of .... and settingup two consulates in Basra and Erbil is about $1 billion.Turkish Imam Fethullah Gulen Nabs George Bush PR Queenwww.boilingfrogspost.com/.../turkish-imam-fethullah-gulen-nabs-george- bush-pr-queen/- CachedApr 5, 2011 ... Turan Erbil says: April 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm. Merhaba; Sibel gets it right again,good thing she isn't living in Turkey or else we would both be ...The Sanitized Gulen Coverage Continues'... - Boiling Frogswww.boilingfrogspost.com/.../the-sanitized-gulen-coverage-continues'.../- Cached - SimilarJun 23, 2010 ... Turan Erbil says: June 29, 2010 at 10:00 am. Merhaba Sibel! Gulen is a name wehave heard in Turkiye for some time, I am intrigued by his cult ...Can the Fragile Equilibrium Among Ankara, Erbil and Baghdad ...washingtonnote.com/the_turkey-iraq/- CachedJun 29, 2009 ... But both Ankara and Erbil are engaged in delicate balancing acts. ...... http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net/Geopolitics___Eurasia/ ...
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:25
Under an agreement with the Iraqi federal government made in September 2012, the Kurdistan Region is entitled to 17 percent of Iraq's refined products, and a further 17 percent of Iraq's crude oil for fuelling power stations. However, the federal government does not supply the Region with its full entitlement to refined products.
To meet our domestic demand and help to serve other areas' needs in the future, the Kurdistan Region is developing the refining sector. With more investments being made, the Kurdistan Region's refining capacity will be close to 150,000 barrels of oil per day by the end of 2013, up from 100,000 currently.
These investments will help the Kurdistan Region to meet our domestic demand for refined products of 130,000 barrels a day, and open up the possibility of serving the needs of Iraq's neighbouring provinces in the future as well.
The Kurdistan Region's two refineries are owned and operated by the private sector.
Kalak refinery near Erbil city, operated by Kurdish company Kar Group, has a capacity of 80,000 barrels per day currently, with a planned capacity of 100,000 by 2014.
Bazian refinery in Sulaymania governorate, operated by Kurdish company WZA Petroleum, has a capacity of 34,000 barrels per day currently, with a planned capacity of 80,000 by 2014.
In addition, at the Tawke field in Duhok governorate, Norwegian company DNO has a topping plant which prepares crude oil to meet export specifications, with a capacity of 5,000 barrels per day.
International firms are helping the Kurdistan Region's refineries to upgrade capacity, and it may be possible in the future to increase their complexity so that oil can be converted into lighter products, such as gas or diesel.
Crude oil and gas production will provide ample quantities of feedstock material for future petrochemicals facilities, fertiliser and ammonium plants and other downstream activities. Companies interested in the downstream sector of the Kurdistan Region can contact the Ministry of Natural Resources today.
DetailsWritten by Super UtilisateurCategory: DOWNSTREAMPublished: 25 August 2013Hits: 1245
Ebola / Africa
U.S supports Nigeria's 2015 elections, others with $51billion - The Sun News
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:14
The U.S Government on Tuesday said it would provide 51 million dollars (about N8.4 billion) to support credible elections in Nigeria in 2015 and other electoral process in the country in the next five years.
This is contained in ''Fact Sheet'' issued by the White House in Washington DC, which highlighted U.S support for democratic institutions, good governance and human rights in Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the publication was released just as the US-Africa Leaders Summit being attended by 50 leaders from the continent, including President Goodluck Jonathan, began in Washington DC.
The publication stated that the U.S was working with other donors to support Nigeria's electoral management bodies and strengthen the ability of the country's civil society to promote electoral reforms.
According to it, part of the funds will be used to expand voter education and monitor electoral processes in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
The U.S government also announced that it had launched ''Making All Voices Count'', a programme aimed at supporting innovation and research that would empower citizens in some countries to engage with government.
''The project is being executed in partnership with other governments and private foundations.
''The partnership with the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Omidyar Network, and the Open Society Foundations, is providing 55 million dollars globally in support and in capacity building from 2013 through 2017,'' it stated.
It said that the first round of grants on the programme, totaling 2.5 million dollars had been announced and would benefit African countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Liberia and Ghana.
U.S. to spend up to $550 million on African rapid response forces
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:28
By Phil Stewart
WASHINGTONWed Aug 6, 2014 8:49pm EDT
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) delivers opening remarks to more than 50 fifty leaders gathered for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Session One on 'Investing in Africa's Future,' at the U.S. State Department in Washington August 6, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States announced on Wednesday plans to spend $110 million a year over the next three to five years to help African nations develop peacekeeping forces that can be rapidly deployed to head off militant threats and other crises.
President Barack Obama unveiled the program during the third day of a summit of African heads of state in Washington, along with another U.S. plan to spend an initial $65 million to bolster security institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia, the official said.
The United States plans to partner with Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to develop rapid response forces. Those forces would be ready to deploy as part of United Nations' or African Union missions.
"The United States doesn't have a desire to expand and create a big footprint inside of Africa," Obama said at a news conference at the conclusion of the summit.
"What we want to make sure we can do is partner with the African Union ... with individual countries, to build up their capacity," he said.
Reuters reported earlier that Obama would make the announcement.
"We've seen over time increasingly capable African peacekeepers who are deploying to address crises across the continent," an administration official said.
"But there continues to be a gap in systematically supporting these peacekeepers to help them deploy more quickly and to help them better sustain themselves once deployed."
From Somalia to the Sahel, the United States has been increasingly backing African-led military efforts to counter Islamist militants, while avoiding direct involvement in those conflicts.
It says it has trained more than a quarter-million African troops and police for service in U.N. and African Union peacekeeping operations. Recently, it sent a specialist team to help Nigeria search for the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist group Boko Haram.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters there was a need for "troop contributing countries" to help serve as rapid reaction forces to deal with groups such as Boko Haram, al Shabaab and al Qaeda affiliates.
"So we're thinking in our bilateral relationships, how can we ensure that there is a group of countries that are ready and able to step into the emergencies," she said.
The new funds would start bolstering U.S. military efforts in Africa during the next fiscal year, which starts in October. Unlike previous funds, these would be geared directly to ensuring a rapid response to emerging crises by building capacity in African nations.
"We'll have increased training, particularly to train the trainer and to train specialized enabler units," the official said.
Another program Obama unveiled, dubbed the Security Governance Initiative, would aim to strengthen institutions in African nations to address a range of issues, which could include border security, the official said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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Infrastructure protection disasters resilience | Homeland Security News Wire
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:39
The new initiative, funded with $100 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, aims to institute a new model for solving the interrelated challenges of the twenty-first century such as persistent and often extreme poverty, food insecurity, and climate shocks. By better aligning humanitarian and development planning, connecting the private sector with civil society and government, and crowdsourcing innovations and solutions, the Resilience Partnership will enable communities to prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from shocks and stresses in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and keeps them on the pathway to development.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Rockefeller Foundation announced the other day a $100 million Global Resilience Partnership that lays out a vision for building resilience to chronic stresses and increasing shocks in communities across Africa and Asia.
Announced at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the Resilience Partnership aims to institute a new model for solving the complex and interrelated challenges of the twenty-first century such as persistent and often extreme poverty, food insecurity, and climate shocks. The Foundation says that by better aligning humanitarian and development planning, connecting the private sector with civil society and government, and crowdsourcing innovations and solutions, the Resilience Partnership will enable communities to prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from shocks and stresses in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and keeps them on the pathway to development.
''Disasters and shocks pose an unparalleled threat to the world's most vulnerable communities and hamstring the global humanitarian response,'' said USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.
''This new bold partnership will help the global community pivot from being reactive in the wake of disaster to driving evidence-based investments that enable cities, communities, and households to better manage and adapt to inevitable shocks. USAID is proud to partner with The Rockefeller Foundation in advancing this new model, harnessing public-private partnerships and empowering country leadership to end extreme poverty.''
The Global Resilience Partnership will focus on the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia, areas particularly susceptible to chronic stresses and extreme shocks. In the Horn and Sahel, some twenty-three million people were affected by food insecurity due to drought in 2011 and 2012. By 2025 in South and Southeast Asia, over 400 million people are expected to be vulnerable to flooding.
''The Global Resilience Partnership will help communities and individuals capitalize on the resilience dividend '-- the difference between where a region is after a shock where resilience investments have been made, compared to where the region would be if it hadn't invested in resilience,'' said Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin. ''We can't always prevent shocks and stresses, but we can better prepare for them.''
The Foundation says that the need for the Resilience Partnership is clear: Over the last thirty years, total development losses as a result of recurring crises represent $3.8 trillion worldwide. The rising toll of climate change combined with population growth means more people stand in harm's way, and many of them are already poor or vulnerable. The number of weather-related disasters has tripled in the last thirty years, and the cost is up 300 percent to $200 billion every year.
While low-income countries were hit by only 9 percent of these disasters, they represented 48 percent of all fatalities. By better coordinating current efforts, engaging new actors, and drawing on new tools like predictive analytics, the Global Resilience Partnership aims to ensure that investments are lasting and yield a resilience dividend for all.
An important feature of the Global Resilience Partnership will be a competitive Resilience Challenge '-- a call out to the best and brightest to present bold and innovative solutions to the toughest challenges facing the three regions. The Challenge will launch later this year and be open to non-profits, academic institutions, and the private sector, with a focus on local and regional players.
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FACT SHEET: Partnering to Counter Terrorism in Africa
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:16
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 06, 2014
As the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania underscored, Africa-based terrorists threaten the interests of the United States in addition to those of our African partners. The United States government has no higher priority than protecting U.S. citizens from attack by terrorists and violent extremists. But our efforts at countering terrorism in Africa are motivated as well by a recognition that extremist groups are tearing apart communities in many parts of the continent, robbing young people of their futures, constraining economic growth, and denying people the opportunity to reach their full potential. African terrorist groups, such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABM), threaten the security and prosperity of Africans across the continent.
We are committed to working with our African partners to address immediate threats and build durable and professional security sector institutions required to achieve our long-term counterterrorism objectives.
A Comprehensive Approach
The United States and our African partners are committed to countering terrorism in Africa through counterterrorism partnerships that draw on all of our tools: military, diplomacy, financial action, intelligence, law enforcement, and development alike. Our partnerships are building African partner capacities in the security and justice sectors to counter terrorism in a way that is consistent with the rule of law, and building the capacity of African governments and civil society in countering violent extremism (CVE) to neutralize violent ideologies before they spread.
Enhancing military capacity. U.S. military personnel work hand-in-hand with their African counterparts to increase military capacity in countries threatened by terrorism. The Department of Defense (DoD) provides much needed equipment to empower African partners' ability to halt terrorism. U.S. military personnel provide specialized training that includes instruction on planning, battlefield tactics, civil-military relations, best practices in counter-insurgency, and respect for the rule of law. The United States also sponsors multinational exercises to increase collaboration and strengthen bonds among African partners. The 2014 Flintlock Exercise, hosted by Niger, brought together more than 1,000 troops from 18 countries, including eight African nations.Enhancing law enforcement capacity: Strengthening our African partners' civilian security and law enforcement capacity is another key priority of our counterterrorism strategy in Africa. In FY2013, we trained 2,584 participants in 19 African countries on how to prevent, detect, and investigate terrorism threats; secure their borders; bolster legal frameworks to effectively prosecute terrorists within the rule of law; and manage responses to terrorist incidents in a rule-of-law framework that respects human rights, as part of the U.S. Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program. The ATA program provides training on a wide range of disciplines, from bomb detection to crime scene investigation. We have a longstanding ATA partnership with Tanzania, for example, which has helped institutionalize its counterterrorism training and stand-up a special marine police unit. On the sidelines of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States and Kenya signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA). This agreement provides the legal framework to allow for the exchange of information and evidence to assist countries in the prevention, detection, and investigation of customs offenses '' including those associated with terrorism-related activities. Restricting travel and stemming access to resources: With our African partners, we work to restrict terrorists' and terrorist organizations' travel and their ability to raise, move, and store money. The Terrorist Interdiction Program/Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System provides partner countries in Africa border security assistance to identify, disrupt, and deter terrorist travel. The Counterterrorism Finance (CTF) program, run by the Department of State, provides training to partner governments that will better enable them to restrict terrorists' and terrorist organizations' ability to raise, move, and store money. CTF provides African nations with internal and cross-border financial investigations training to work effectively with counterparts in neighboring countries and assists these countries in strengthening their laws and regulations. We have three CTF-funded Resident Legal Advisors (RLA) and two Department of Homeland Security advisors in Africa who provide mentoring and training to judges and prosecutors so they are better able to adjudicate and prosecute these cases. Drying up potential sources of recruits: We also seek to stop terrorism before it begins by strengthening community resilience and creating environments that are inhospitable for terrorist recruitment. In Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso, for example, USAID is leading efforts to support youth empowerment through education, skills training, strengthening local governance capacity, and improving access to information via community radio, targeting groups most vulnerable to extremist ideologies.Building global partnerships: We have also worked in the multilateral arena to build international architecture to combat today's terrorist threats. In 2011 the United States co-founded the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which includes participation from African countries. The GCTF focuses on identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilizing the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and enhancing global cooperation. Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund: President Obama has asked Congress to create a new, $5 billion counterterrorism partnerships fund that will help build the capacity of our international partners to respond effectively to the terrorist threat. If approved, this fund would allow the United States to provide additional training, equipment, and operational support for partner states in our shared fight against al-Shabaab, AQIM, Boko Haram and others. It would also support targeted efforts to address the underlying conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including by supporting partner efforts to combat terrorist safe havens.Providing support to partners on the front lines
The United States is building strong partnerships with countries to address critical terrorist threats on the front lines in order to confront the threat at its roots.
Confronting Boko Haram: We are deeply concerned by Boko Haram's ongoing attacks against Nigeria's citizens, civil institutions, and infrastructure, including the group's April 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls. To support the Nigerian-led efforts to combat Boko Haram, we are providing an array of military, law enforcement, and intelligence support, such as counter-Improvised Explosive Device training and forensics training. We are also supporting the efforts of Nigeria and its neighbors to increase regional cooperation to combat Boko Haram. Because the specter of terrorism requires more than just a security response, we have also worked to encourage and support the Nigerian government's efforts to promote development in northern Nigeria, including by boosting health, education, and social service delivery. Our security cooperation also supports the professionalization of key military units and underscores that effective counterterrorism policies and practices are those that respect human rights and are underpinned by the rule of law.Working to Degrade Al-Shabaab: In Somalia, we continue to support the Somali National Army and the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in their efforts to push al-Shabaab out of its strongholds. The Department of State has invested more than $170 million to recruit and train forces to help protect Somalia's institutions and citizens. Since 2007 we have contributed more than half a billion dollars in training, equipment, and logistical support to AMISOM. While these efforts have weakened al-Shabaab and pushed it out of a number of cities, the group remains the most significant threat to peace and security in Somalia and the region. Our counterterrorism support for Somalia is embedded in an overarching policy of support for policies and reforms to eliminate the underlying sources of violence and increase national and regional stability. A stable, peaceful Somalia and Horn of Africa are the best long-term deterrents to a resurgence of al-Shabaab. Our Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism, has helped build the capacity and resilience of East African governments to contain the spread of, and counter the threat posed by, al-Qa'ida, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist organizations. Enabling Partners to combat al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): We provided support to our French and regional partners to reverse AQIM's expansion in northern Mali in 2013 and help the people of Mali reclaim their future. The United States has provided airlift and refueling support, and training and supplies to more than 6,000 African soldiers and police who have deployed to support the international response. This international partnership paved the way for safe elections and improved stability in Mali, taking on both the immediate threat and the dire conditions that helped the extremists take hold in the first place. Our Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) has supported these efforts and other partner country efforts in the Sahel and the Maghreb to constrict and ultimately eliminate the ability of terrorist organizations to exploit the region by increasing security sector capacity, addressing underlying causes of radicalization, and amplifying local voices that speak out against violence. Confronting Terrorism in North Africa: We continue to provide security and counterterrorism assistance and advice to our partners in North Africa to arrest the growth of extremist groups like Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah. Through the TSCTP, we are working with the government of Tunisia to build its capacity to confront terrorist threats. We have also provided crisis response and tactical and command training to Tunisian security forces as well as training in leadership development, police reform, prison reform, hostage rescue, and crowd control management for the Justice and Interior ministries. Additionally, we have provided vehicles to enhance internal and border security in Tunisia. In Libya, we are working with the international community to train a Libyan General Purpose Force, build Libyan security institutional capacity, and improve the Libyan government's ability to counter terrorism.
Nigeria, US agree on partnership to curtail Ebola outbreak
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 21:48
President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Joe Biden have agreed that Nigeria and the United States would work together to urgently curtail the outbreak of Ebola virus.
Jonathan and Biden met in Washington D.C on Tuesday on the side-line of the on- going US-Africa African leader's summit, according to a `readout' issued by the White House, Office of the Vice President.
Ebola virus has claimed two lives in Nigeria since a 40-year old Liberian and American citizen Patrick Sawyer died of the disease in Lagos.
The identity of the second victim of the deadly virus has been withheld by government but it is believed to be a medical worker who had contact with Sawyer at the hospital in Lagos.
According to the World Health Organisation, over 800 persons have died from the Ebola virus from the three main hit West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, the White House statement said Biden reiterated U.S. partnership in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.
He was reported to have stressed the need to pursue holistic approaches that respect and protect human rights
''The Vice President also underscored the importance of supporting Nigeria's effort to improve the socioeconomic and security conditions in northern Nigeria,'' the statement by the White House said.
Further, Biden was quoted to have welcomed Nigeria's work to improve its business climate, which continues to attract U.S. investors.
Both leaders were reported to have expressed their commitments to trade and investment, and the critical role that access to electricity plays in supporting that goal.
The President Barack Obama, on June 30, launched Power Africa, an innovative private sector-led initiative aimed at doubling electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is believed that no fewer than 600 million people currently lacked access to electricity in the region.
Obama used the occasion of the summit to announce a renewed commitment to this initiative and pledged a new level of $300 million in assistance per year to expand the reach of Power Africa.
He also announced $6 billion in new private sector commitments, bringing the total private sector commitments under Power Africa to date to more than $20 billion
The U.S government has set an ambitious aggregate goal of 30,000 MW of additional capacity to Africa and increasing electricity access by at least 60 million households and business connections.
'Government stimulation' needed for Ebola research
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:37
As the Ebola outbreak spreads, health experts are considering how to legally and ethically use experimental treatments. Dr. David Heymann tells DW what he thinks needs to be done to tackle the ongoing epidemic.
The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa has spread to Nigeria, while Liberia Wednesday declared a state of emergency over the virus. Reports of a "secret serum" administered to two Americans infected with Ebola in Atlanta that may have helped recover has sparked international debate on use of experimental medicine.
David Heymann, a doctor and epidemiologist who has worked combating outbreaks for decades, told DW how he thinks immediate access to experimental vaccines can best be facilitated.
DW: In the case of the US doctor who was administered the anti-Ebola serum, can we be sure it was actually the drug that helped?
David Heymann: We can't be sure whether it was the drug that helped or whether he was one of the 40 percent survivors. What we do know is that immune serum was used in the past. After the first outbreak of Ebola in 1976, in someone who had a laboratory accident in the UK. He was given the serum, he did not develop Ebola, but it's not clear whether or not he was really infected (he had a needle-stick injury).
Heymann has held various positions at the WHO
What we're calling for is a systematic approach to looking at what new medicines and vaccines might be available, and then beginning to work with the countries where Ebola is occurring. The World Health Organization (WHO) would have to be the group that has to do this, with industry that produces or has the capacity to produce these goods. If so then they would need to be studied with rigorous protocols. But that's a country decision.
There are a lot of drugs and vaccines in development, for Ebola and other infectious diseases. And yet, they struggle for want of money, among other things, to get to the human trial stage. For example, there is a vaccine against Ebola that has been tested on apes. How can we get around that problem?
That problem is based on a risk-benefit assessment. If a government working with the WHO and with the industries that produce these goods shows that the risk of using these drugs - even though they haven't been shown to be safe in humans - is in their favor, then with rigorous study they could use them, theoretically. But it depends on the governments' desire and ability to use them in a safe and ethical manner.
How could that work?
What needs to be done to draw up a list of all the products that are available. That's then made available to countries as they make their decisions, with their regulatory agencies, epidemiology groups and experts in the country.
But wouldn't that be a rather slow process?
The idea would be to have the drugs or vaccines, the research protocols, and the ethical and regulatory approval in countries before an outbreak occurs. And that's work that would have to be done before the next outbreak. Looking at this outbreak, it might be that certain steps could be speeded up.
We've known about this particular outbreak in Liberia since March. Is the problem that we just can't get that kind of speed - do you share the opinion that the WHO is only just now waking up?
If there had been a very robust response at the very start of this epidemic, it probably could have been stopped without international spread. There are known ways of stopping these outbreaks that have worked in 40 outbreaks in the past. That could have worked in this outbreak, and it didn't. There was not a robust enough response from the government, maybe also from others involved, and as a result it spread across international borders.
A Liberian woman mourns - more than 900 people have died of Ebola during the current outbreak
Is Ebola perceived as an African problem that Western countries tend to overlook?
Research money was not put up by a company to develop a product. With a disease like this where there is not a known market, research has to be done through government stimulation. There's funding in the US and other parts of the world because this is a very serious organism that people fear might one day be used to deliberately cause harm.
You were part of the original team at the first Ebola outbreak in 1976. Has anything changed?
We understand now that these outbreaks can be stopped rapidly without medicines and without vaccines, but it takes government commitment and coordination among all those working on the outbreak to be sure that those measures are applied.
Dr. David L. Heymann heads the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security, where he is also a senior fellow. He chairs the United Kingdom's Health Protection Agency, and previously held various positions at the World Health Organization.
Tekmira Shares Spike After FDA Partial Hold Announcement - Business Insider
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 16:27
Aug. 8, 2014, 9:35 AM5,971REUTERS/Ben Nelms
Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation's head office in Burnaby, British Columbia, on Tuesday.
Shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals are up by 18% in early trading.On Thursday afternoon, management announced that the FDA loosened a hold on the Ebola treatment in the company's development pipeline.
"[T]he U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has verbally confirmed they have modified the full clinical hold placed on the TKM-Ebola Investigational New Drug Application (IND) to a partial clinical hold," they said. "This action enables the potential use of TKM-Ebola in individuals infected with Ebola virus."
"Earlier this month, the agency put a hold on a Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp clinical trial of TKM-Ebola, one of the few Ebola treatments advanced enough to be tested in people," reported Reuters' Julie Steenhuysen. This had enraged the families of those infected by the deadly virus, which has been killing people across West Africa.
"We have been closely watching the Ebola virus outbreak and its consequences, and we are willing to assist with any responsible use of TKM-Ebola," Tekmira CEO Mark Murray said Thursday. "The foresight shown by the FDA removes one potential roadblock to doing so. This current outbreak underscores the critical need for effective therapeutic agents to treat the Ebola virus. We recognize the heightened urgency of this situation and are carefully evaluating options for use of our investigational drug within accepted clinical and regulatory protocols."
Here's a look at what the stock was doing overnight and before the bell via MarketWatch:
EBOLA CANDIDATES-Avoiding the Resource Curse in East Africa's Oil and Natural Gas Boom | New Security Beat
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:19
This year, Texas-based Anadarko and Italian partner ENI are due to make the final investment decision on whether to construct one of the largest liquefied natural gas facilities in the world in Mozambique. The complex would allow them to tap into deep off-shore gas fields that could rival Australia and Qatar as the largest liquefied natural gas reserves in the world.
The Anadarko and ENI complex may be the first of a stream of large oil and gas projects in East Africa and questions have been raised about whether these new developments can bring sustainable development to the region or inflict the ''resource curse'' that has plagued other African countries. The conventional arrangements under which international oil and gas companies operate are not suited to the development of energy resources for use within developing countries. In places like Nigeria, this has resulted in much of the benefits of oil and gas production (namely energy and jobs) skipping over local populations and government wealth being squandered in large-scale corruption.
But with this latest round of oil and gas finds, politics and policies at national and local levels are changing, and there is hope that previous mistakes can be avoided.
A Development OpportunityEast Africa, which has hitherto not figured on the global energy map other than as a cash-strapped importer of oil, could soon come to rival West Africa as a world class producer of oil and gas.
Politics and policies at national and local levels are changing, and there is hope that previous mistakes can be avoided
Besides Mozambique's estimated 35 to 65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, in Tanzania, two European companies (BG and Statoil) have each found smaller amounts in their off-shore exploration areas, and they and others are still exploring for more. In Uganda, large oil resources have been found south of Lake Albert, and the field divided between three companies (Tullow, Total, and CNOOC). In Kenya, there is exploration for oil underway and the initial signs are promising. On the fringe of the region is South Sudan, which suspended oil production after independence because of disputes with Sudan, but could restart and may have significant additional, untapped potential.
Each of these countries have emerged over the course of the last 50 or so years from centrally controlled economies producing tea, coffee, cashews, and other agricultural products for export towards more diversified economies with more open markets and international investment. Mozambique and Tanzania have seen for the first time the advent of extractive industries, through the recent development of large-scale coal (Mozambique) and gold (Tanzania) mining. But results have been very mixed, and economic activity and human potential in East Africa remains thwarted by very limited access to electricity, cooking fuels other than firewood and charcoal, and poor quality education.
Only 16 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity and 9 percent of Ugandans, according to the latest World Bank data. In Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, over 70 percent of schools have no electricity; in Mozambique and Tanzania, 40 percent have no water supply. Per capita agricultural outputs are falling in Uganda and Tanzania, and rising by just one to two percent in Kenya and Mozambique.
Some Lessons LearnedPoliticians and policymakers, civil society, donors, and the media are paying close attention to these large oil and gas finds. There is awareness of the problems with corruption and limited benefits that other countries, notably Nigeria, have experienced despite being major oil exporters.
A set of interrelated core issues are being explored, to varying degrees, by different stakeholders:
Government revenues from oil, gas, and mining: Is the government getting a fair share, as compared to the international companies who have developed the oil and gas fields? Is information publicly available on what revenues the government is getting? How are government revenues being used, what are the development impacts, and how will ''Dutch disease'' be avoided?Environmental and social impacts: How will the extractive industries be developed without damaging valuable ecosystems and causing pollution to resources that people depend on? How will companies secure the ''local license to operate'' from communities?Economic benefits: How will communities and the wider citizenry benefit from the extraction of non-renewable resources? Who will benefit from jobs and business opportunities? Will oil and gas finds result in more and cheaper domestic energy? What direct and indirect employment benefits will be created?Built on the lessons learned from failed oil-based development elsewhere, some progress is being made on two of these issues. Mozambique and Tanzania are fully signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which could help control corruption and foster public policy debate by making public the payments made to governments and payments received by governments.
In terms of securing long-terms benefits for the population from the exploitation of non-renewable resources once the resources themselves are depleted, Mozambique is considering whether to follow the Norwegian model and set up a sovereign wealth fund; Tanzania's President has announced a decision to do so; and Uganda has drafted legislation for a similar fund within the central bank. Uganda has already been beset with charges of corruption and mismanagement around the new industry, so caution is necessary, but the fact that the legislation has been offered demonstrates awareness of the need to control and monitor the revenue streams that should start to flow late in this decade.
On the social and environmental impact front, oil companies are far more alert to the importance of understanding and avoiding environmental damage, impacts on communities, and accidents than in the early days of the industry in West Africa. The large international oil companies that are active in East Africa follow the social and environmental standards of the International Finance Corporation '' the World Bank's private sector arm '' which are wider in scope and more stringent than many national environmental laws.
It is the third issue '' economic benefits '' that is proving exceptionally challenging, and where oil companies and governments are struggling to find new development models.
Where Are the Jobs? Where Is the Power?Up to now, oil companies and governments in developing countries have worked on a narrow model of economic benefit. Oil companies produce oil (and gas) for export. The government gets a hefty share of the profit in the form of taxes and product. To a greater or (often) lesser degree, efforts are then made to open up employment and supply chain opportunities locally.
Where this model applies in West Africa, it is typical to find huge, state-of-the-art oil and gas export facilities sitting alongside communities where people live in houses without electricity. People like me who are involved in community consultations always hear the same thing when we speak with locals: ''Where are the jobs? And why are we living in darkness next to this place which is stealing our oil?''
Here at the start of a new round of development in East Africa, governments are contesting the assumption that the oil and gas found in their territory should be exported rather than used domestically, and people in resource-rich areas are challenging the right of the government to extract resources from ''their'' areas without providing them with power first.
Thus in Uganda there are currently disputes over how much oil is refined into products for sale within the region and who pays for refineries and pipelines, which are blocking development of the Albertine Graben oil fields. Uganda wants to use its oil to become a regional supplier of gasoline and other fuels, while the international oil companies are looking to produce crude for international use, or in the case of China's CNOOC, their domestic market.
Structural Industry ProblemsEast African countries may arguably be better equipped to deal with the coming wave of development than their West African counterparts were, but vulnerability to the resource curse also stems from some fundamental tenets of how international oil and gas companies currently operate.
Large international oil companies are not in the business of developing local energy supplies, especially in developing countries
International oil companies face issues of currency, costs, and capabilities. The equipment and highly skilled people needed to find oil and gas '' especially in deep off-shore basins '' and build processing plants comes from overseas and must be paid for in dollars. Local currency sales of gasoline and electricity will not provide for this.
Secondly, while there is a demonstrable need for energy across East Africa, especially in rural areas, there is not yet strong commercial demand. Many of those who lack access to energy also lack the wherewithal to pay for it, and institutional arrangements '' for example the below-production-cost price under which Tanzania's electricity utility has to provide power '' deter investment. Yet oil companies cannot spend the billions of dollars now needed to explore and produce without a certainty of recouping costs and making a profit. (This is not just a problem for Western companies '' see China's CNPC and the government of Chad at loggerheads in 2012 over the prices paid for products from the local refinery that CNPC built. )
The third important factor is that large international oil companies are not in the business of developing local energy supplies, especially in developing countries. In the past two decades, companies have become more and more streamlined and rid themselves of ''non-core'' activities. With some exceptions, their core capabilities do not include development of local power and fuel systems. They are not interested in building local energy markets for themselves; they aim to serve existing markets.
A U.S. Leadership Role?New models and new relationships are needed that put the development of oil and gas resources in a broader context and ensure equitable and sustainable development for East Africa.
Energy sector reform is needed to make investment in electricity generation and distribution commercially attractive, as are new financing instruments such as guarantees that link together upstream and downstream investments to stimulate and protect investment in the delivery of much needed local energy.
To do this, a wider set of players than governments and oil companies alone need to be involved. A forum that brings together thought leaders from international oil companies in the region; corporations with expertise in power projects in developing countries; development and project finance banks; and East African government advisors could find innovative solutions to the problem of developing the region's oil and gas resources in a way that is profitable for oil companies and governments, yet also achieves a step change in access to energy across the region. Without bridging this gap, there is a risk of lose-lose outcomes with holdouts developing between governments and companies around domestic use of oil and gas.
New models and new relationships are needed that put the development of oil and gas resources in a broader context
The United States could play an important role in this respect. With new shale gas and oil transforming the domestic energy market and moving the country towards self-sufficiency, interventions abroad may no longer be seen as tainted by energy security aims, increasing U.S. credibility as a third-party mediator.
Over the past decade there have been innovative partnerships between governments, companies, donors, and non-governmental organizations. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is changing how revenue management is done. Now we need a similar but different coalition to find ways to use local energy resources for local energy supply as well as export. The United States could, and perhaps should, play a leading role in this effort.
Policymakers and industry have come a long way since the early days of oil and gas development in Africa. Finding a way to bridge this last gap, between local and international energy production, could transform the lives of some of the poorest people in the world and secure the investments of some of the world's largest businesses '' a rare dual benefit indeed.
Jill Shankleman is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center and former senior social and environmental specialist at the World Bank. She now works as a consultant on social and political risk to multinational companies and banks, where her work focuses on oil, gas, mining, and power projects in developing nations.
Sources: AllAfrica, Anadarko, CNN, Center for Global Development, Financial Times, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Finance Corporation, Republic of Uganda, Reuters, Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality, World Bank.
Photo Credit: ''Night Rig,'' courtesy of flickr user arbyreed (R. B. Reed). Map: A survey assessment of oil and gas resources in East Africa, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.
About Anadarko - Overview
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:22
Anadarko is ...Committed to safely producing the energy we all need in a manner that protects the environment, public health and supports our communities. Energy is fundamental to modern existence. It is as important as clean air, water and affordable food. At Anadarko, we take our responsibility seriously to safely deliver resources to our energy-hungry world, and we hold true to our core values of integrity and trust, servant leadership, commercial focus, people and passion, and open communication in all of our business activities.
Anadarko is among the world's largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, with 2.79 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) of proved reserves at year-end 2013.
2013 Company AchievementsReported record sales volumes, including a 7% year-over-year increase in daily sales volumes over 2012 Accelerated approximately $4.5 billion of value through asset monetizations Achieved first oil at the El Merk mega project in Algeria Advanced multiple large-scale developments with the installation of the Lucius spar in the Gulf of Mexico, sanctioning of the Heidelberg project in the Gulf and the TEN development offshore Ghana. Increased shareholder yield by doubling the common dividend Built upon our industry-leading exploration track record with a 67% deepwater exploration/appraisal success rate
BONANZA!-allAfrica.com: Nigeria: U.S. Recovers Millions of Dollars Stolen From Nigerian Government
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:42
The United States has recovered more than $480 million hidden in bank accounts around the world by a former Nigerian dictator and his associates.
A Justice Department news release Thursday said the money represents a portion of the billions of dollars stolen from the people of Nigeria by former Nigerian president Sani Abacha, his son Mohammed Sani Abacha, their associate Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and other corrupt individuals.
The department says the money can be used for the benefit of the Nigerian people, but that the ultimate disposition of the funds depends on rulings in several foreign jurisdictions.
Approximately $303 million are in two bank accounts in the British dependency of Jersey, $144 million are in two bank accounts in France, and three other bank accounts in Britain and Ireland have at least $27 million.
Claims to an additional $148 million in four investment portfolios in Britain are pending.
General Abacha became president of Nigeria through a military coup in November 1993. He held the position until his death in 1998.
Georgia Guidestones - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:00
The Georgia Guidestones is a granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. A message clearly conveying a set of ten guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages, and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The structure is sometimes referred to as an "American Stonehenge".[1] The monument is 19 feet 3 inches (5.87 m) tall, made from six granite slabs weighing 237,746 pounds (107,840 kg) in all.[2] One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it. A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned. An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the Guidestones.
History[edit]In June 1979, an unknown person or persons under the pseudonym R. C. Christian hired Elberton Granite Finishing Company to build the structure.[2]
In 2008, the stones were defaced with polyurethane paint and graffiti with slogans such as "Death to the new world order".[3]Wired magazine called the defacement "the first serious act of vandalism in the Guidestones' history".[2]
Inscriptions[edit]A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Georgia Guidestones in eight different languages, one language on each face of the four large upright stones. Moving clockwise around the structure from due north, these languages are: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.
Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.Guide reproduction wisely '-- improving fitness and diversity.Unite humanity with a living new language.Rule passion '-- faith '-- tradition '-- and all things with tempered reason.Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.Avoid petty laws and useless officials.Balance personal rights with social duties.Prize truth '-- beauty '-- love '-- seeking harmony with the infinite.Be not a cancer on the earth '-- Leave room for nature '-- Leave room for nature.Explanatory tablet[edit]A few feet to the west of the monument, an additional granite ledger has been set level with the ground. This tablet identifies the structure and the languages used on it, lists various facts about the size, weight and astronomical features of the stones, the date it was installed and the sponsors of the project. It also speaks of a time capsule buried under the tablet, but fields on the stone reserved for filling in the dates on which the capsule was buried and is to be opened have not been inscribed, and it is not clear whether the time capsule was ever put in place. Each side of the tablet is perpendicular to one of the cardinal directions, and is inscribed so that the northern edge is the top of the inscription. At the center of each tablet edge is a small circle, each containing a letter representing the appropriate compass direction (N, S, E, W).
The complete text of the explanatory tablet is detailed below. The tablet is somewhat inconsistent with respect to punctuation and also misspells "pseudonym". The original spelling, punctuation and line breaks in the text have been preserved in the transcription which follows. At the top center of the tablet is written:
The Georgia GuidestonesCenter cluster erected March 22, 1980
Immediately below this is the outline of a square, inside which is written:
Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason
Around the edges of the square are written the names of four ancient languages, one per edge. Starting from the top and proceeding clockwise, they are: Babylonian (in cuneiform script), Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Ancient Egyptian (in hieroglyphics).
On the left side of the tablet is the following column of text:
Astronomic Features1. channel through stoneindicates celestial pole.2. horizontal slot indicatesannual travel of sun.3. sunbeam through capstonemarks noontime throughoutthe year
Author: R.C. Christian(a pseudonyn) [sic]
Sponsors: A small groupof Americans who seekthe Age of Reason
Time CapsulePlaced six feet below this spotOnTo Be Opened on
The words appear as shown under the time capsule heading; no dates are engraved.
Physical data[edit]On the right side of the tablet is the following column of text (metric conversions added):
1. OVERALL HEIGHT - 19 FEET 3 INCHES [5.87 m].2. TOTAL WEIGHT - 237,746 POUNDS [107,840 kg].3. FOUR MAJOR STONES ARE 16 FEET, FOUR INCHES [4.98 m] HIGH, EACH WEIGHING AN AVERAGE OF 42,437 POUNDS [19,249 kg].4. CENTER STONE IS 16 FEET, FOUR- INCHES [4.98 m] HIGH, WEIGHS 20,957 POUNDS [9,506 kg].5. CAPSTONE IS 9-FEET, 8-INCHES [2.95 m] LONG, 6-FEET, 6-INCHES [1.98 m] WIDE; 1-FOOT, 7-INCHES [0.48 m] THICK. WEIGHS 24,832 POUNDS [11,264 kg].6. SUPPORT STONES (BASES) 7-FEET, 4 INCHES [2.24 m] LONG 2-FEET [0.61 m] WIDE. 1 FOOT, 4-INCHES [0.41 m] THICK, EACH WEIGHING AN AVERAGE OF 4,875 POUNDS [2,211 kg].7. SUPPORT STONE (BASE) 4-FEET, 2½ INCHES [1.28 m] LONG, 2-FEET, 2-INCHES [0.66 m] WIDE, 1-FOOT, 7-INCHES [0.48 m] THICK. WEIGHT 2,707 POUNDS [1,228 kg].8. 951 CUBIC FEET [26.9 m"] GRANITE.9. GRANITE QUARRIED FROM PYRAMID QUARRIES LOCATED 3 MILES [5 km] WEST OF ELBERTON, GEORGIA.Guidestone languages[edit]Below the two columns of text is written the caption "GUIDESTONE LANGUAGES", with a diagram of the granite slab layout beneath it. The names of eight modern languages are inscribed along the long edges of the projecting rectangles, one per edge. Starting from due north and moving clockwise around so that the upper edge of the northeast rectangle is listed first, they are English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. At the bottom center of the tablet is the following text:
Additional information available at Elberton Granite Museum & ExhibitCollege AvenueElberton, Georgia
Astronomical features[edit]The four outer stones are oriented to mark the limits of the 18.6 year lunar declination cycle.[4] The center column features a hole through which the North Star can be seen regardless of time, as well as a slot that is aligned with the Sun's solstices and equinoxes. A 7/8" aperture in the capstone allows a ray of sun to pass through at noon each day, shining a beam on the center stone indicating the day of the year.[2]
Location[edit]The Georgia Guidestones are located on a hilltop in Elbert County, Georgia, approximately 90 miles (140 km) east of Atlanta, 45 miles (72 km) from Athens, and 9 miles (14 km) north of the center of Elberton.[5] The stones are standing on a rise a short distance to the east of Georgia Highway 77 (Hartwell Highway), and are visible from that road. Small signs beside the highway indicate the turnoff for the Guidestones, which is identified by a street sign as "Guidestones Rd." It is located on the highest point in Elbert County.
Ownership[edit]Elbert County owns the Georgia Guidestones site. According to the Georgia Mountain Travel Association's detailed history: "The Georgia Guidestones are located on the farm of Mildred and Wayne Mullenix..."[4] The Elbert County land registration system shows what appears to be the Guidestones as County land purchased on October 1, 1979.[6][7]
The monument was unveiled in March 1980, in front of 100 people.[8] Another account specifies March 22, 1980 and says 400 people attended.[2]
Documentary series[edit]The Georgia Guidestones are featured extensively in the Travel Channel episode "Mysteries at the Museum: Monumental Mysteries Special" featuring Don Wildman.[9] They are featured prominently in the conspiracy web series Guidestones. The guidestones were featured in the Brad Meltzer's Decoded episode "Apocalypse in Georgia" and in 2013, a documentary titled, The Georgia Guidestones Movie, received screenings in Georgia, South Carolina, and Oregon. The monument is also featured in the "New World Order" episode of the History Channel series America Unearthed.
Reception[edit]Yoko Ono and others have praised the inscribed messages as "a stirring call to rational thinking", while opponents have labeled them as the "Ten Commandments of the Antichrist".[2]
The Guidestones have become a subject of interest for conspiracy theorists. One of them, an activist named Mark Dice, demanded that the Guidestones "be smashed into a million pieces, and then the rubble used for a construction project",[10] claiming that the Guidestones are of "a deep Satanic origin", and that R. C. Christian belongs to "a Luciferian secret society" related to the New World Order.[2] At the unveiling of the monument, a local minister proclaimed that he believed the monument was "for sun worshipers, for cult worship and for devil worship".[8]
Computer analyst Van Smith said the monument's dimensions predicted the height of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world which opened in Dubai over thirty years after the Georgia Guidestones were designed. Smith said the builders of the Guidestones were likely aware of the Burj Khalifa project which he compared to the biblical Tower of Babel.[11]
As a counter to many conspiracy theories is a theory that the guidelines are only stating the basic concepts required in the future to restart a devastated civilization after surviving some Cold War ideologically caused disaster that was expected to occur in the late 20th century. If so, then some of the more controversial guidelines as seen from viewpoint of our present peaceful conditions, would likely in a post disaster recovering future, seem less ominous, more practical, and could help prevent future ideologically caused disasters by following their terse concepts.[12][13]
References[edit]Further reading[edit]External links[edit]
EU launches '‚¬845 million Pan-African initiative
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:25
The European Commission has kick-started a new programme to help integrate African countries and regions, with a '‚¬415 million cash injection between now and 2017 and a further tranche of '‚¬430 planned before 2020.
The revenues will be used to fund projects for better trade relations, election observation missions run by the African Union, academic exchange programmes and initiatives to improve the governance of migration and mobility within Africa and the EU.
The first areas to benefit will include sustainable agriculture, environment, higher education, infrastructure, migration, information technology and research and innovation, according to an EU press release accompanying the launch.
"The challenges with which we are faced can no longer be tackled within national borders,'' said the President of the European Commission, Jos(C) Manuel Barroso. ''This is why I have proposed to create a Pan-African programme to find solutions at regional and continental scale and support the process of African integration.''
''The alliance between Africa and Europe is indispensable, today more than ever,'' he added. ''This programme will make it even stronger''.
Barroso first announced the Pan-African programme at the 4th Africa-EU summit last April, as Africa's continental integration emerged as a key priority for the EU. The programme is part of a '‚¬28 billion investment plan to strengthen economic and trade ties between the two continents.
In February, the EU and negotiators from West Africa agreed a '‚¬42 billion-a-year free trade deal after a decade of talks, but landing similar agreements with the East African Community and Southern African Development Community states has proved more difficult.
"The major innovation of this programme is that it allows the EU to link up the cooperation it has with Northern Africa, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa,'' The EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said. ''It will also help us to achieve better policy coherence for development by building synergies between development cooperation and other EU policies."
Earlier this month, the US president, Barack Obama, announced a $33 billion investment package for Africa, with $14 billion of that sum coming from American companies, and the other $19 billion being channelled through the Power Africa initiative.
''Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way,'' Obama said.
Despite its poverty-stricken image, Africa contains six of the 10 fastest-growing economies and China is the continent's largest trading partner.
Last year, while the US earned $85 billion from bilateral trade with Africa, China took home $210 billion.
Hundreds of Chinese workers are evacuated from Libya.
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:18
7 August 2014Last updated at 01:11 China has evacuated almost 900 of its workers caught up in fighting in Libya, a Chinese official has told the BBC, leaving only a few dozen in Tripoli.
The Chinese are the latest in long list of overseas workers to leave Libya, including Americans, Britons, Egyptians, Filipinos and Pakistanis.
Libya has been gripped by violence involving militias that spearheaded the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.
Several hundred people have died in an upsurge of unrest.
Much of the fighting has between rival militia groups over the last month.
The fighting has been centred on the international airport in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Correspondents say that this is not the first time that China has evacuated its workers in Libya - during the Libyan civil war in 2011, China evacuated 35,860 nationals.
China on Wednesday thanked Greece for its help in evacuating nearly 80 of its nationals from Libya last week.
Police & activists clash on Maidan, tires burn anew in central Kiev
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:25
Published time: August 07, 2014 07:56Edited time: August 07, 2014 15:50Maidan self-defence activists clash with fighters of Kiev-1 volunteer battalion on Independence Square in Kiev on August 7, 2014.(AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)
Activists and police have clashed in the Ukrainian capital's center after communal workers tried to dismantle the camp. It follows a months-old conflict over the camp with the city administration.
Up to 10 people have been detained as a result of the Maidan clashes and a criminal case has been launched alleging hooliganism, according to Interfax.
Fifty law enforcers from Ukraine's interior ministry's battalions, Kiev 1 and Kiev 2, were wounded, with three of those receiving serious injuries, police chief Aleksandr Tereshchuk told a media briefing.
It is currently unclear whether there were wounded among the protesters.
Camp residents are currently fortifying the old barricades and building new ones, Ria Novosti reported.
Law enforcement officials have been injured in the clashes with activists on the Kiev's Independence square, according to the Interior Ministry press service.
It's not known how many people were injured, ITAR-TASS reports. The majority of injuries were from stones thrown by protesters.
The smoke from burning tires can be smelt all over the city center, witnesses say.
Activists living in the camp were also throwing Molotov cocktails at police, while barricades and tires were burning on the square, the heart of anti-government protest that began last year.
''Police were carrying out public order maintenance and the work of communal services, but then the camp caught fire, and the fire brigades are now dealing with the blaze,'' the Kiev police press service stated to Interfax Ukraine.
Sources in law enforcement suppose that the camp residents set their tents on fire themselves to prevent the communal services from doing their job. There's also information that there are weapons in the camp.
Earlier on Thursday, communal services were dismantling the barricades, and confiscated about 20 boxes containing bottles of flammable mixture.
Law enforcement officials and Kiev authorities have been urging the activists to leave Maidan and free the seized buildings for months, but the activists have refused to do so.
In July, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema urged the activists to leave Kiev's Maidan and free seized buildings.
Yarema underlined that the refusal to obey would entail criminal responsibility.
Kiev's Independence Square has been the main hub of the popular uprising since last November. Around a thousand people were still on the square in July, according to Kiev's Mayor Vitaly Klitschko.
Protesters seized 19 buildings, including administrative offices and hotels, with almost 500 activists living there, according to the prosecutor general.
Ukraine: demonstrators resist dismantling of Maidan protest camp.
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:45
The Kyiv mayor's office has been leading an operation to dismantle the protest camp at Independence Square, or Maidan, in the centre of the Ukrainian capital.
The Maidan was the centre of mass protests that began in November 2013 and eventually led to the ousting of Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovich in February.
A few hundred demonstrators still occupy a camp on the square.
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko told reporters: ''Step by step, we, with the help of talks, by negotiating, are convincing them [the demonstrators] to resolve this key issue, so Kyiv can get back to a normal way of life.''
There were clashes as some of the demonstrators refused to abandon the square.
They say they want the new Ukrainian authorities to remember how they got into power and be accountable to the people.
''Nothing the government was supposed to do has been done,'' said Vladimir, an activist from Odessa. ''There's no law to hold people responsible for all those who died here.''
More than 120 people died in clashes between demonstrators and police during the height of the protests in early 2014.
The Maidan protests were initially sparked by Yanukovych's u-turn on a long-planned association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.
US warns Russia that aid-delivery to Ukraine would be viewed as invasion - France 24
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:57
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Azerbaijan, Armenia Count on Russia's Assistance in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Settlement
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 13:48
BOCHAROV RUCHEY (SOCHI), August 10 (RIA Novosti) '' The presidents of Azarbaijan and Armenia believe that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has dragged on and advocate a speedy solution to the issue, counting on Russia's help, the Azeri leader said while meeting the Russian and Armenian counterparts.
''This issue requires a solution; it has dragged on for quite a long time. I hope that your personal interest in this matter will kick-start the negotiation process," Azeri President Ilham Aliyev stressed while addressing Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
"As you have just stated, there is already a format for negotiations, there is also a legal basis for the conflict settlement. The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions calling for an immediate withdrawal of Armenian occupation forces from the territories belonging to Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, more than 20 years have passed and these resolutions have never been implemented. I think that Russia, as our close friend, partner and neighbor, plays a particular role in this process. We hope that in the near future by means of negotiations, by peaceful means we will find a solution, which would comply with all the norms and principles of international law and would also be fair,'' Aliyev said.
A trilateral meeting between the presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan focused on the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh started Sunday in the Bocharov Ruchey residence in Russia's southern resort city of Sochi.
''We believe that the conflict can be resolved and the solution should be based on a compromise, on those principles that were offered by the OSCE co-chairs,'' Armenian leader Serzh Sargsyan said.
''I am thankful to you for your intention to find a solution, which will take into account Armenia's national interests,'' Sargsyan added addressing Putin.
The meeting comes amid sharp ratcheting up of tensions along the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan which led to casualties on the both sides.
According to the Defense Ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, recent attacks in the past days have claimed the lives of 25 Azeri and five Armenian soldiers. The Azeri side insists it has lost 12 servicemen.
Russia, China agree on more trade currency swaps to bypass dollar '-- RT Business
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:43
Published time: August 08, 2014 16:11Edited time: August 09, 2014 16:33Reuters/Petar Kujundzic
The Russian and Chinese central banks have agreed on a draft currency swap agreement, which will allow them to increase trade in domestic currencies and cut the dependence on the US dollar in bilateral payments.
''The draft document between the Central Bank of Russia and the People's Bank of China on national currency swaps has been agreed by the parties,'' and is at the stage of formal approval procedures, ITAR-TASS quotes the Russian regulator's office on Thursday.
The Russian Central Bank is not giving precise details on the size of the currency swaps, nor when it will be launched. It says this will depend on demand.
According to the bank, the agreement will serve as an additional instrument for ensuring international financial stability. Also, it will offer the possibility to obtain liquidity in critical situations.
''The agreement will stimulate further development of direct trade in yuan and rubles on the domestic foreign exchange markets of Russia and China,'' the Russian regulator said.
Currently, over 75 percent of payments in Russia-China trade settlements are made in US dollars, according to Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.
READ MORE: Russian companies 'de-dollarize' and switch to yuan, other Asian currencies
In early July, the Central Bank's chairwoman Elvira Nabiullina said Moscow and Beijing were close to reaching an agreement on conducting swap operations in national currencies to boost trade. The deal was later discussed during her trip to China.
President Vladimir Putin, during his visit to Shanghai in May, said cooperation between Russian and Chinese banks was growing, and the two sides were set to continue developing the financial infrastructure.
''Work is underway to increase the amount of mutual payments in national currencies, and we intend to consider new financial instruments,'' Putin said after talks with President Xi Jinping.
Later on, during his meeting with leading international news agencies on the sidelines of the St Petersburg's economic forum, Putin said that Russia and China had made ''the first modest steps'' in using national currencies in international settlements. He added that the two countries were going to continue exploring opportunities for working together.
A currency swap is widely used and allows simultaneously exchanging a specific amount of one currency for another currency with two different settlement dates.
Exxon Mobil starts drilling in Russia's Arctic
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 02:08
Alexey Druzhinin | AFP | Getty Images
Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with ExxonMobil President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson (R)
"Today, commercial success is driven by efficient international cooperation," Vladimir Putin told Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Glenn Waller, ExxonMobil's lead manager in Russia, on a video conference call from his Black Sea residence in Sochi.
"Businesses, including Russian and foreign companies, perfectly realise that and despite certain current political difficulties, pragmatism and common sense prevail, and we are pleased to hear that," he said.
Exxon brought a rig from Norway to drill Russia's first well in the Kara Sea and its move will be seen as a vote of confidence in Rosneft, run by a close ally of Putin's, Igor Sechin, who has also had sanctions imposed on him by Washington.
Read MoreNo grounds for US sanctions: Rosneft chief Sechin
"We of course welcome this approach (to cooperate) and are from our side are open to expand our cooperation," Putin said.
"I am convinced that the joint projects between Rosneft, Exxon Mobil and other companies will benefit our national economies, will contribute to strengthening the global energy situation," he said.
Waller, who spoke Russian, said the company was keen to keep working in Russia.
"Our cooperation is a long-term one," he said. "We see big benefits here and are ready to work here with your agreement."
India eyes $40-bn pipeline from Russia to import gas
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:54
In a move aimed at ensuring India's energy security, the Narendra Modi-led government plans to import huge volumes of natural gas from Russia. The Centre is working out the contours of a $40-billion (Rs 2.4 lakh-crore) mega onland pipeline project carrying gas from Russia to India, in one of India's biggest energy projects till date.
Top government officials told HT that the move follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brazil on the sidelines of the Brics summit.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) along with the ministry of petroleum and natural gas are preparing a blueprint to examine the feasibility of this new project, they added.
An announcement on this initiative is expected to be made in December when the two leaders meet at the India-Russia annual summit to be held in New Delhi.
China has already finalised a similar gas pipeline deal with Moscow for importing gas. New Delhi, sources said, also plans to import crude oil from Moscow and the logistics for the same are being worked out.
''Russia so far has directed majority of its oil and gas supplies to the West'... however, the scenario may be quiet different in the coming years especially in the wake of its gas pipeline to China and the one now proposed till India,'' a senior oil ministry official said.
Two routes are being considered for the gas pipeline project. One is from Russia's southern border to India via the Himalayas and the second from Russia - Astrakhan - Khazakstan '-- Uzbekistan and then along the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route to India (TAPI gas pipeline).
The proposed project from Russia to India is almost four times the cost of the $10-billion (or Rs. 60,000-crore) Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project, also called the peace pipeline, which has failed to take off due to security concerns over the pipeline traversing through Pakistan and has been on the drawing board for the past many years.
''This government (under Modi) is taking all steps that will lead to a reduction in India's oil import bill... apart from this proposed pipeline, reviving and pushing the other two projects '-- IPI and TAPI are also being looked into at the highest level,'' he added.
The cost of the other onland gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan (or the TAPI) project is also close to $8-10 billion.GAIL India Ltd will be associated with this project along with a consortium of other state-owned oil and gas companies including Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), Oil India Ltd and Indian Oil, the official said.
Finland warns Russia sanctions could spell 'economic crisis'
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:21
Finland could face an economic crisis because of European Union sanctions against Russia and Helsinki will seek financial compensation from the EU if it is disproportionately hit by the measures, its prime minister said on Wednesday (6 August).
Last week, the EU imposed tough sanctions targeting Russia's banking, oil and defence sectors over Moscow's stance in the Ukraine crisis.
The West accuses Moscow of actively backing pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and blames them for downing a Malaysian airliner last month. Russia denies the charges.
Russia is Finland's third largest export market, accounting for about 10% of total Finnish sales abroad. Russian tourists also spend roughly '‚¬2 billion annually in Finland, a neutral country which shares a long border with Russia.
"This has the potential - and I stress potential - to become economic crisis 2.0," Prime Minister Alexander Stubb told reporters, adding that the indirect impact of the sanctions could be significant for Finland.
>> Read: Estonia, Baltic states stand to suffer most from Russia sanctions
Finland is struggling to exit from two years of economic slowdown that has battered its electronics and paper industries. Some economists expect further contraction in 2014, while the finance ministry has forecast meagre growth of 0.2%.
Stubb, who organised his news conference at a beach cafe in sunny Espoo near Helsinki on the last day of his summer vacation and wore shorts and sandals, said Russia would suffer a bigger direct hit from the sanctions than the EU countries.
Stubb, who took over as prime minister in June and has called in the past for Finland to abandon its neutrality and join the NATO alliance, said he expected Russia also to impose retaliatory sanctions, but said the EU measures were necessary.
"We have to be crystal clear about why we are in this situation. We are here because one country has invaded parts of another country and flagrantly violated international law ... We have to think about international law," he said.
Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March and, despite its denials, is widely believed to be providing financial, military and logistical support to the separatists battling Kyiv's forces in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
"Sanctions were necessary at the current juncture," Stubb said, adding that no EU member state should suffer economically more than others because of the sanctions against Russia.
"It is without doubt clear that if sanctions hit a certain country disproportionately, that has to be compensated ... It is also clear that if sanctions hit Finland disproportionately, we will seek aid from our EU partners," he said.
NATO chief heads to Ukraine as crisis deepens
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:19
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk have discussed possible Western alliance support for Ukraine's defence capacity, a Kiev government statement said.
Rasmussen and Yatseniuk exchanged views on possible ways in which a proposed NATO trust fund could be used to support Kiev's in defence areas including command and control, communications and cyberdefence, it said.
Rasmussen arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kiev a day after Ukrainian forces carried out their first air strike on the pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, as they said they were preparing to liberate the city, although they also reported their highest death toll in weeks in the face of fierce rebel bombardments.
NATO recently said that Russia had increased the number of "combat-ready" troops on its border with Ukraine to 20,000 from 12,000 in mid-July and Moscow could be planning a ground invasion in support of pro-Russian separatists.
Meanwhile, clashes between government forces and pro-Russia fighters in eastern Ukraine have continued on Thursday. One person was killed and two injured on Thursday when a hospital was hit by shelling, local health authorities said.
"Today as a the result of a mortar shell hitting the... first Donetsk city hospital, one person died and two were injured," the regional health administration said in a statement, adding that no medics were among the casualties.
Overnight shelling killed three people and wounded five as government forces tightened their grip on Donetsk, the city council said on Thursday.
'Selling soap bubbles'
"This is a dangerous situation," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, warning, "Russia could use the pretext of a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission as an excuse to send troops into eastern Ukraine."
Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, said "the threat of a direct intervention [by Russia into Ukraine] is certainly greater than it was even a few days ago".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence with the separatists for the "stabilisation" of Ukraine.
Moscow said those making the claims about their troop movements were "selling soap bubbles".
"Movements of such forces of thousands of troops and equipment are not possible in such a short time," said Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenikov.
The US and EU have slapped a range of tough sanctions on Moscow, with Switzerland, Japan and Canada following suit, potentially pushing Russia's fragile economy towards recession.
Putin struck back on Wednesday with import bans and restrictions on farm products from countries that have targeted Moscow.
Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted a government official as saying that Russia will block all U.S. agricultural imports.
The text of Putin's decree released by the Kremlin said the affected imports would be "banned or limited" for one year.
Dutch growers feel the bite of sanctions against Russia.
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:18
Dutch growers feel the bite of sanctions against RussiaWednesday 06 August 2014
The market gardeners' association LTO Glaskracht said on Wednesday that Dutch growers are already feeling the bite of sanctions against Russia.
Association chairman Nico van Ruiten told Radio 1 that growers are afraid to export their fresh produce and the prices are already falling. Bell peppers and tomatoes now fetch just 5 euro cents a kilo.
The problem began last week with a ban on the import of fruit and vegetables from Poland on the basis of 'food safety'.
Polish market gardeners are now dumping their produce in Germany where there is already too much on offer, leading to massive drops in prices, according to Van Ruiten.
No measures have yet been taken against the Netherlands, but the Dutch growers are worried their produce will be stuck in lorries at the Polish border.
This uncertainty is being inflamed by the EU's economic sanctions against Russia, Van Ruiten said. Growers are worried payment for their produce will not be forthcoming.
The Netherlands is the biggest exporter of fresh produce to Russia, sending an annual '‚¬600m in vegetables and fruit and '‚¬350m in cut flowers.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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TRUVADA SETUP?-Number of porn films shot in Los Angeles shrinks after condom law was passed - Americas - World - The Independent
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:21
The Los Angeles Times reported that the number of permits issued for porn productions in LA County dropped by 90 per cent between 2012 and 2013, to a total of 40. According to Film LA, the body responsible for the permits, just 20 were issued in the first seven months of this year.
In 2011, an estimated 5,000 adult films were produced in Los Angeles, many of them in the San Fernando Valley, which is considered the industry's spiritual home. Porn is thought to have accounted for as many as 20,000 jobs in the region. That is, until the new law, known as Measure B, was passed by LA County voters in November 2012, after AIDS activists campaigned on its behalf, claiming it would prevent the disease spreading among porn performers.
Porn professionals insist the law is unnecessary, because the industry already enforces mandatory HIV testing for performers, many of whom dislike wearing condoms. Audiences are also thought to prefer their adult entertainment condom-free, which is why porn production has largely relocated to more laissez-faire locales, including Las Vegas, Florida, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Paul Audley, the president of Film LA, described the decrease in permits in LA County as ''dramatic'', telling the LA Times, ''It is a cause for concern that people who are manning the cameras, lights and other things on those sets are not working anymore.''
What Truvada means for the future of HIV prevention in porn
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:24
BDSM porn mogul Peter Acworth recently stirred up controversy when he posted an open letter to Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) on his blog. Acworth's message: Stop pushing legislation that would force adult performers to wear condoms on set and offer them an HIV-prevention alternative in the form of a PrEP drug called Truvada.
I know you have mixed feelings about PrEP, the new medical regimen that can help prevent HIV transmission. It's not well-understood yet by performers, but I believe we owe it to the communities we serve to evaluate this on its merits. The fact is, none of the performers you bring to your press conferences would have been protected had AB1576 been passed ten years ago, because no California condom law is going to protect performers during their personal lives, or shooting on unregulated sets overseas. PrEP, if it works as advertised, could do just that. In fact, we've recently begun working with HIV and sex worker health organizations to develop an educational program about PrEP specifically targeting adult performers'--it would be great if you could be a part of it.
While I have my qualms about Acworth as an individual, I think his advocacy for Truvada makes a lot of sense from the perspective of a sexual health educator. Truvada is an anti-retroviral medication that was approved by the FDA in 2012 for HIV PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. Studies have shown that when taken consistently, Truvada can reduce HIV transmission as much as 92 percent, findings comparable to perfect condom use.
That said, Truvada is typically recommended as a supplement to condoms and regular testing in high risk populations, not a replacement or a general panacea for HIV prevention. While Truvada for PrEP has been a hot topic within the gay male community, there has been little discussion of how the drug might help other high risk populations, such as adult performers and other sex workers.
Chicago-based pro-domme Erin Black is one sex worker who uses Truvada to reduce her risk of HIV infection, but she says her reasons her partly political. ''So few sex-workers know about Truvada, and those that are aware of it are undereducated about the drug, or have completely bought in to lies and misinformation that surround the blue pill,'' Black said. ''I try to educate them whenever I get the chance.''
With a recent spate of HIV infections leading to multiple moratoriums in the adult film industry, improving Truvada education and accessibility (in addition to biweekly testing and optional condoms), is a logical public health strategy for minimizing the incidence of HIV in adult performers.
One of Truvada's greatest barriers to general acceptance is fear that the drug will promote reckless promiscuity, in spite of evidence to the contrary. This is a common issue in the world of sexual health promotion'--the prudish fantasy that denying access to sexual health education and services will magically prevent people from engaging in high risk behaviors (see: HPV vaccination and comprehensive sex education in schools).
With Weinstein's callous dismissal of Truvada as a ''party drug'' for gay men, it's unlikely that he will be receptive to Acworth's advocacy of PrEP as a public health strategy for porn stars. Weinstein's statement sends a dangerous message that people who use Truvada are irresponsibly promiscuous, fostering an atmosphere of stigma and shame that may deter high-risk individuals from seeking treatment. Adult performers are a highly stigmatized population, and there may be a concern relying that on Truvada and testing alone is an irresponsible choice compared to using condoms.
Weinstein's AHF is the driving force behind AB 1567, a bill that would mandate that adult performers in the state of California wear condoms on set, or face criminal penalties. Although requiring condoms on porn sets seems like a logical STI prevention strategy, many performers and directors have spoken out against AB 1567, arguing that wearing condoms during prolonged sex scenes can result in genital abrasions that make performers more susceptible to STIs.
Others are concerned that the bill will force porn production underground or out of state, where there are fewer regulations to protect performers. While condoms are a highly effective barrier against HIV and other STIs, they can slip or break, especially if used incorrectly. Truvada would offer an effective alternative to condoms for performers who prefer to go without, and offers additional protection to those who do use condoms.
Acworth's most effective selling point for Truvada in porn is the protection it offers off-set. Legislature like AB 1567 doesn't guarantee that the performers will practice safer sex in their personal lives. Truvada offers protection against HIV both at work as well as in their off-screen relationships. In my interview with Erin Black, she expressed that Truvada offers her greater protection for enjoying sex with her fluid-bonded partner. ''Truvada allowed me to maintain my sexual relationship with my partner regardless of my work,'' she argued.
Truvada is not a perfect solution for HIV prevention, nor does it offer protection against other STIs. There are many persuasive arguments for why Truvada should not be used, but ultimately it is a personal decision. Nevertheless it is an FDA-approved strategy for HIV prevention that has been shown to be highly effective when used as directed. ''Inform, educate, and empower'' is one of the ten essential functions of public health, and I believe that Truvada education is an essential component for HIV prevention in the world of porn and beyond.
Bianca Jarvis, MPH, is blogger and sex educator at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute, based in Bloomington, IN. She is also executive editor of Msbehaved.com, "a sex-positive lifestyle site with a fierce femme sensibility." Read more at Kinsey Confidential and on Twitter at @BiancaJarvisMPH.
Photo via felix.castor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
transfolk-There's a pill that prevents HIV '-- why are only gay men talking about it? | The Verge
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 01:47
A few months ago, the CDC recommended Truvada, the HIV prevention pill, to anyone at risk of infection. The Verge and other media outlets '-- including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Slate '-- covered the news in a big way, because it meant that government officials were not only urging doctors to prescribe the drug to queer men or individuals whose partners have HIV, but to anyone at risk '-- including sex workers, heterosexuals, and transfolk. Yet many reporters, myself included, failed to discuss how revolutionary this drug is for one particular, and substantial, segment of the US population: women.
Uncomfortable because of "the imbalance of power between men and women"
"The idea of women protecting themselves from HIV really hasn't gotten much play," says Anna Forbes, staffer at the US Women and PrEP Working Group, which aims to increase awareness about Truvada among women. "It's a topic that raises a lot of uncomfortable issues for a lot of people, because it's not something that we can talk about without talking about the imbalance of power between men and women," notably during discussions about safe sex.
No matter how you slice it, condom use '-- even female condom use '-- requires a partner's acceptance, and people who identify as women often lack the social capital to impose these sexual barriers. That's where Truvada comes in: the little blue pill is discreet enough to require no participation from sexual partners who might not be willing to help out. And it's repeatedly shown to be extremely effective at preventing HIV infections when taken daily.
Abuse and condom useThere's no shortage of evidence linking intimate partner violence to inconsistent condom use. In a 2011 study of over 500 heterosexual men in New York City, researchers found that men who are physically violent with their partners are half as likely to report consistent condom use compared with men who aren't. And another study, published in 2013, showed that women who were physically abused by their partners in the three months prior to answering the survey were more likely to have had sex without a condom than women who hadn't experienced that type of violence.
"A partner's involvement is important where possible," says Linda-Gail Bekker, an infectious disease researcher at The Desmond Tutu HIV Center in South Africa. "But there are some situations where this isn't feasible either because individuals can't negotiate condoms, or the negotiation ends up being violent."
violent male partners are half as likely to report consistent condom use
Thus, the threat of violence during condom negotiation is an important contributor to "risky sex" in abusive relationships '-- relationships that one in three women in the US will experience. And going through these experiences won't just affect a woman once, as surviving intimate partner violence can significantly decrease a woman's confidence when negotiating condom use with future sexual partners. "It's not that women are stupid, or that they don't know that they need to protect themselves from HIV," Forbes says. Rather, it's that in some situations "the cost of insisting on condoms use is often greater and more immediate than the risk of HIV, either because of partner violence, stigmatization, the risk of the break up of a relationship, or community ostracism '-- it's just really tough."
All women may feel these pressures at various points, but female sex workers are especially at risk due to the criminalization of sex work in 116 countries around the world. According to Stefan Baral, a physician epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, sex work criminalization represents "an additional barrier" that prevents victims from going to the police when they experience violence.
43 percent of the female sex workers experienced client violence
"Client violence rendered women vulnerable to unprotected and high-risk sex both in the immediate encounter, as well as in future scenarios given their heightened awareness of the violence that could ensue if they refused sex or insisted on condom use," a group of researchers wrote in a 2013 study of 35 female-identified sex workers in Baltimore. They found that 43 percent of the sex workers experienced client violence in the month leading up to the study. Many were forced to perform sex acts without a condom, they said, before describing how for one woman, "coercive condom non-use took the form of client condom removal while he held a gun to her head."
Of course, men '-- particularly gay men '-- also experience abuse in relationships. In fact, one in four American men have suffered from intimate partner violence, and in these circumstances, male victims don't always have the option of negotiating safe sex. But for the purposes of this piece, I've opted to discuss the issue of women-identified people on Truvada, because previous articles about the drug have almost exclusively addressed male usage.
Why aren't we talking about this?When the female condom was first introduced in 1993, many thought it would give women more independence and control. But like most other safe sex products that target women (dental dam anyone?), the female condom is still a rarity in the bedroom. There are many reasons for that, but one plausible explanation is that it still involves a partner's knowledge '-- a characteristic that makes it far less empowering than women once hoped it would be.
"Women still need the acceptance of the partner to use the female condom, so it's still the same issue [that arises with male condoms]," says Erika Aaron, an adult nurse practitioner at Drexel University who specializes in HIV. But with Truvada, "the user has total control, and it can be taken confidentially '-- their partner doesn't need to know '-- so it's really up to the woman, and it's about her own self-empowerment."
Female condom (Anka Grzywacz / Wikimedia Commons)
Of course, there are myriad reasons a woman might want to take Truvada: she's planning to have sex with multiple partners, wants to protect against a condom failing, or is unsure of a partner's fidelity. Truvada can be taken and then discontinued when a user's circumstances change. "Any one person will go through periods of high risk and low risk," Baral says. "There will be times when people may want to use this product and then not '-- there will be times that a woman may feel that she may need the locus of control within herself."
Truvada also provides hope for injection drug users, and because 52 percent of heroin users in the US are women, the pill's potential among that population is huge. The benefits of Truvada for serodiscordant couples in the US (one person is HIV positive and the other isn't) are equally important, Aaron says, especially for those who wish to have children. Using it lets people "enjoy the process of pregnancy without all the stress about transmission," she says.
But if Truvada is the HIV preventative that the female condom should have been, why aren't we talking about it? "It's not clear to me why the media isn't discussing this," says Beryl Koblin, principal investigator at the New York Blood Center. "But one possible explanation is that the populations that are most highly affected in the US are men who have sex with men '-- they represent an overwhelming majority of new HIV infections."
48.8 percent of Americans who took Truvada in 2013 were women
Every researcher I spoke with echoed Koblin, but most also mentioned that despite the high rates of new infection in men, women still account for 20 percent of new HIV infections each year in the US. Moreover, one in four Americans living with HIV identify as women, and women comprise 50 percent of those living with HIV worldwide. But what's perhaps most striking is that 48.8 percent of Americans who started taking Truvada between January 2012 and October 2013 were women, according to Ryan McKeel, a spokesperson for Truvada manufacturer Gilead.
With numbers like that, addressing women makes sense. Yet finding an article about Truvada that doesn't omit these benefits isn't easy. "I don't really think it's the media's fault," Aaron says. "I think that our government has responsibilities to do mass public health campaigns when there is a clear chance to decrease incidence of HIV, and there should be an infrastructure for this." If there had been a campaign, Aaron says, then it's likely that the media would have covered the potential the Truvada holds for women. Instead, reporters "have been finding their own way slowly about this choice that people have."
Truvada (Jeffrey Beal / Wikimedia Commons)
Making a population agnostic HIV preventativeFortunately, there are people working to enhance Truvada's profile outside of the queer male realm. The US Women and PrEP Working Group, for instance, has organized webinars to raise awareness among health care providers, and met with White House officials last year. During that meeting, "a cross section of the people working with the FDA urged for better training for providers," Forbes says.
If these training programs are developed, researchers, clinicians, and government officials will have their work cut out for them. "At this point, we have very limited knowledge about use among US women," Koblin says. "We need to understand what the uptake is among women and among their providers, because providers in general are not super knowledgeable about [Truvada]."
But these programs won't just have to support women as they learn to take a pill that isn't birth control '-- they'll also have to ensure that Truvada reaches women experiencing abuse. And when clinicians find these women, they will have to help them work around their partners. "Physicians will have to ask women if having a pill in the house could be a problem," Koblin says. "And people who take the pill need clinical care and regular monitoring '-- so is that something that will work for them?"
Each case will be different, of course, and Truvada won't be right for everyone, but now that there's a tool that can help women gain some control, it's only fitting that they should know.
"it doesn't have to be a gay thing."
The only way to do that, however, is to change the conversation. "I spent a lot of my career working on the female condom, and one thing I learned was be careful about stigmatizing products," says Mitchell Warren, executive director at AVAC, a global advocacy group for HIV prevention. "In the early years, it was majoritarily marketed to sex workers." As a result, he says, people would often say "Oh it's a sex worker product," before dismissing it. So, if health care providers want women to start using Truvada, they will have to tailor campaigns to all audiences, not just queer men. "This could be a life-saving product for everyone," Warren says. "It doesn't have to be a gay thing."
Grindr Recommends You Order The Truvada, Hold The Slut Shame / Queerty
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 13:44
Grindr is a lot of things. Battery killer, time waster, hook-up facilitator and late night drug solicitation tool to name just a handful. Now it can add this: PrEP marketer.
It's no surprise that guys are hooking up online in staggering numbers '-- there's a bevy of scandalous services out there '-- so if the goal is to reach a market of potentially unsafe sex practicers, seems like a good place to start.
They recently told Buzzfeed in a statement:
To date, Grindr has helped raise awareness surrounding numerous PrEP initiatives including studies and information sessions.
Grindr is highly committed to promoting safe sex within the community and strongly encourages our users to engage in safe sex practices, get tested and know their HIV status.
And here's what you might have seen lately before you load more guys:
TRUVADA-HIV positive man charged with having sex without alerting partner - Orlando Sentinel
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 01:26
An inmate booked on misdemeanors last week in Orange County is now facing a felony charge after a woman came forward to report that he'd had sex with her without telling her that he is HIV positive, an arrest affidavit states.
The woman came forward Saturday, the day she learned 52-year-old Isaac Mitchell was HIV positive, according to the affidavit. She told a deputy that she had been in a sexual relationship with Mitchell for a few months.
She said that, during sexual encounters, Mitchell wore a condom, but never told her of his diagnosis. In Florida, it's illegal for an HIV-positive person who is aware of the infection to have sex without alerting the partner.
Records show Mitchell had already been in the Orange County Jail since Thursday on open container and marijuana possession charges, when he was arrested again Tuesday on the HIV-related charge, a first-degree felony.
If convicted, Mitchell faces up to 30 years in prison. He is also accused of violating his probation in a 2009 conviction for grand theft of a motor vehicle, court records show. He remained in the county jail Wednesday night.
Records show Mitchell has been sentenced to state prison twice before, in 1990 and 2001, on cocaine-related charges.
jeweiner@tribune.com or 407-420-5171407-420-5171
Pfizer confronts surge of lawsuits over Lipitor
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:10
When the labeling change was released in 2012, a top FDA official underscored that the agency still stood behind the drugs: "Clearly, we think that the heart benefit of statins outweighs this small increased risk (for diabetes)," Amy Egan, a deputy director for safety at the agency's Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology, said in a statement at the time.
Statins are a class of drugs that block the liver's production of cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease. Type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes glucose.
The recent spike in lawsuits followed a decision by a federal judicial panel to consolidate all Lipitor diabetes lawsuits from around the country into a single Federal courtroom in Charleston, South Carolina. Pfizer opposed the consolidation, arguing it would prompt copycat filings. The first case is scheduled to be tried next July.
Pfizer said in a statement that it denied liability and would fight the lawsuits.
It is not uncommon for a drugmaker to get hit with thousands of lawsuits over its products after the FDA orders a label change alerting users to newly found risks. Takeda Pharmaceutical, for instance, is facing more than 3,500 federal lawsuits since 2011 when the FDA ordered it to update the label on its diabetes drug Actos to warn about bladder cancer. Takeda has denied liability.
But several factors set the Lipitor diabetes cases apart from those against other drug companies. For one, Lipitor is the best-selling prescription drug of all time, racking up global sales of more than $130 billion since it went on the market in 1996. More than 29 million patients in the United States have been prescribed the drug, suggesting there is a vast pool of potential plaintiffs.
Read MoreWhenunapproved drugs are the only hope
On the other hand, potentially complicating matters for plaintiffs, the FDA emphasized the benefits of statins even as it warned of the risks.
When the labeling change was released in 2012, a top FDA official underscored that the agency still stood behind the drugs: "Clearly, we think that the heart benefit of statins outweighs this small increased risk (for diabetes)," Amy Egan, a deputy director for safety at the agency's Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology, said in a statement at the time.
Statins are a class of drugs that block the liver's production of cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease. Type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes glucose.
Risks and benefits
The seemingly mixed message from the FDA suggests that litigation will focus on two questions: how big a diabetes risk do women using Lipitor face, and whether that risk is mitigated by the drug's cardiovascular benefits.
H. Blair Hahn of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the lead lawyer appointed to represent Lipitor plaintiffs in federal court, said the plaintiffs contracted diabetes as a consequence of taking Lipitor, and that women with diabetes see the length and quality of their lives reduced.
Agenda 21
Geoengineering the Earth's climate sends policy debate down a curious rabbit hole.
Tue, 05 Aug 2014 08:56
There's a bit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where things get ''curiouser and curiouser'' as the heroine tries to reach a garden at the end of a rat-hole sized corridor that she's just way too big for.
She drinks a potion and eats a cake with no real clue what the consequences might be. She grows to nine feet tall, shrinks to ten inches high and cries literal floods of frustrated tears.
I spent a couple of days at a symposium in Sydney last week that looked at the moral and ethical issues around the concept of geoengineering the Earth's climate as a ''response'' to global warming.
No metaphor is ever quite perfect (climate impacts are no 'wonderland'), but Alice's curious experiences down the rabbit hole seem to fit the idea of medicating the globe out of a possible catastrophe.
And yes, the fact that in some quarters geoengineering is now on the table shows how the debate over climate change policy is itself becoming ''curiouser and curiouser'' still.
It's tempting too to dismiss ideas like pumping sulphate particles into the atmosphere or making clouds whiter as some sort of surrealist science fiction.
But beyond the curiosity lies actions being countenanced and discussed by some of the world's leading scientific institutions.
What is geoengineering?Geoengineering '' also known as climate engineering or climate modification - comes in as many flavours as might have been on offer at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Professor Jim Falk, of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne, has a list of more than 40 different techniques that have been suggested.
They generally take two approaches.
Carbon Dioxide Reduction (CDR) is pretty self explanatory. Think tree planting, algae farming, increasing the carbon in soils, fertilising the oceans or capturing emissions from power stations. Anything that cuts the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Solar Radiation Management (SRM) techniques are concepts to try and reduce the amount of solar energy reaching the earth. Think pumping sulphate particles into the atmosphere (this mimics major volcanic eruptions that have a cooling effect on the planet), trying to whiten clouds or more benign ideas like painting roofs white.
Geoengineering on the tableIn 2008 an Australian Government''backed research group issued a report on the state-of-play of ocean fertilisation, recording there had been 12 experiments carried out of various kinds with limited to zero evidence of ''success''.
This priming of the ''biological pump'' as its known, promotes the growth of organisms (phytoplankton) that store carbon and then sink to the bottom of the ocean.
The report raised the prospect that larger scale experiments could interfere with the oceanic food chain, create oxygen-depleted ''dead zones'' (no fish folks), impact on corals and plants and various other unknowns.
The Royal Society '' the world's oldest scientific institution '' released a report in 2009, also reviewing various geoengineering technologies.
In 2011, Australian scientists gathered at a geoengineering symposium organised by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.
The London Protocol '' a maritime convention relating to dumping at sea '' was amended last year to try and regulate attempts at ''ocean fertilisation'' '' where substances, usually iron, are dumped into the ocean to artificially raise the uptake of carbon dioxide.
The latest major United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also addressed the geoengineering issue in several chapters of its latest report. The IPCC summarised geoengineering this way.
CDR methods have biogeochemical and technological limitations to their potential on a global scale. There is insufficient knowledge to quantify how much CO2 emissions could be partially offset by CDR on a century timescale. Modelling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise, but they would also modify the global water cycle, and would not reduce ocean acidification. If SRM were terminated for any reason, there is high confidence that global surface temperatures would rise very rapidly to values consistent with the greenhouse gas forcing. CDR and SRM methods carry side effects and long-term consequences on a global scale.
Towards the end of this year, the US National Academy of Sciences will be publishing a major report on the ''technical feasibility'' of some geoengineering techniques.
Fighting Fire With FireThe symposium in Sydney was co-hosted by the University of New South Wales and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney (for full disclosure here, they paid my travel costs and one night stay).
Dr Matthew Kearnes, one of the organisers of the workshop from UNSW, told me there was ''nervousness among many people about even thinking or talking about geoengineering.'' He said:
I would not want to dismiss that nervousness, but this is an agenda that's now out there and it seems to be gathering steam and credibility in some elite establishments.
Internationally geoengineering tends to be framed pretty narrowly as just a case of technical feasibility, cost and efficacy. Could it be done? What would it cost? How quickly would it work?
We wanted to get a way from the arguments about the pros and cons and instead think much more carefully about what this tells us about the climate change debate more generally.
The symposium covered a range of frankly exhausting philosophical, social and political considerations '' each of them jumbo-sized cans full of worms ready to open.
Professor Stephen Gardiner, of the University of Washington, Seattle, pushed for the wider community to think about the ethical and moral consequences of geoengineering. He drew a parallel between the way, he said, that current fossil fuel combustion takes benefits now at the expense of impacts on future generations. Geoengineering risked making the same mistake.
Clive Hamilton's book Earthmasters notes ''in practice any realistic assessment of how the world works must conclude that geoengineering research is virtually certain to reduce incentives to pursue emission reductions''.
Odd advocatesCuriouser still, is that some of the world's think tanks who shout the loudest that human-caused climate change might not even be a thing, or at least a thing not worth worrying about, are happy to countenance geoengineering as a solution to the problem they think is overblown.
For example, in January this year the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a US-based think tank founded by Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg, issued a submission to an Australian Senate inquiry looking at overseas aid and development.
Lomborg's center has for many years argued that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is too expensive and that action on climate change should have a low-priority compared to other issues around the world.
Lomborg himself says human-caused climate change will not turn into an economic negative until near the end of this century.
Yet Lomborg's submission told the Australian Senate suggested that every dollar spent on ''investigat[ing] the feasibility of planetary cooling through geoengineering technologies'' could yield ''$1000 of benefits'' although this, Lomborg wrote, was a ''rough estimate''.
But these investigations, Lomborg submitted, ''would serve to better understand risks, costs, and benefits, but also act as an important potential insurance against global warming''.
Engineering another excuseSeveral academics I've spoken with have voiced fears that the idea of unproven and potentially disastrous geoengineering technologies being an option to shield societies from the impacts of climate change could be used to distract policy makers and the public from addressing the core of the climate change issue '' that is, curbing emissions in the first place.
But if the idea of some future nation, or group of nations, or even corporations, some embarking on a major project to modify the Earth's climate systems leaves you feeling like you've fallen down a surreal rabbit hole, then perhaps we should also ask ourselves this.
Since the year 1750, the world has added something in the region of 1,339,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (that's 1.34 trillion tonnes) to the atmosphere from fossil fuel and cement production.
Raising the level of CO2 in the atmosphere by 40 per cent could be seen as accidental geoengineering.
Time to crawl out of the rabbit hole?
IMF's Blunt Message to Nations: Raise Fossil-Fuel Taxes to Fight Climate Change | InsideClimate News
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 05:09
Countries all over the world, including the United States, should be collecting much higher pollution taxes on fossil fuels'--stiff enough to reflect the long-term cost of global warming's damage, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday in an important new study.
The IMF, one of the world's leading development institutions, has long favored putting a price on carbon as an essential defense against the mounting damages of climate change.
But its advice has never been so blunt, or so detailed.
"Many energy prices in many countries are wrong," said the report, entitled Getting Energy Prices Right. "They are set at levels that do not reflect environmental damage, notably global warming."
Not only should countries collect taxes to take into account the future global costs of climate damage that carbon dioxide emissions are expected to cause, but they should also collect taxes to discourage burning fossil fuels because of the more localized smog and soot that make people sick. In addition, they should collect taxes on motor vehicle fuels to help pay for roadway wear and tear, crashes and the like.
Mainstream economists have long held that taxing fossil fuels is the most efficient way to ward off environmental ills. Higher taxes would discourage people from burning so much fuel, and also make alternative clean fuels more competitive in price and stimulate green innovation.
But in many countries raising taxes is political anathema, and politicians and policymakers have either let climate matters slide or resorted to other means of combating climate change, such as subsidies for green fuels, even though economists say that approach is less efficient.
The book-length IMF report contains extensive analysis on how much fossil fuel taxes should be charged by nations compared to what they charge today.
The agency estimated that its recommended tax levels would reduce global carbon emissions by 23 percent, cut fossil fuel related deaths around the world by 63 percent, and raise average national revenues by 2.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
In prepared remarks delivered in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Christine Lagarde, the fund's managing director, said the agency is talking about "smarter taxes rather than higher taxes." Energy taxes, in other words, could be used to reduce other taxes or to pay down public debt. She said some nations might choose other effective mechanisms than taxes'--such as a cap-and-trade scheme'--to put a price on carbon.
The point of the study was not to set precise target levels for carbon taxes country by country, Lagarde said.
Instead, its purpose was to clarify what she called glaring imbalances in energy taxes. In this sense its recommendations were illustrative rather than prescriptive.
"Take coal, for example," she said. "This is about the dirtiest of all fuels, yet almost no country imposes meaningful taxes on its use. Our work suggests that, to reflect the carbon damages alone, a reasonably-scaled charge would amount, on average, to around two-thirds of the current world price of coal. In countries where a lot of people are exposed to air pollution, the coal charge should be even higher'--several times higher in some cases."
Read chapter one of "Getting Energy Prices Right" by the IMF:
IMFchapteronefossilfueltaxes (PDF)IMFchapteronefossilfueltaxes (Text)
World's top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers | Environment | The Guardian
Tue, 05 Aug 2014 17:30
Some of the world's top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming.
Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions '' as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives.
Now a number of the top 25 global PR firms have told the Guardian they will not represent clients who deny man-made climate change, or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Companies include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners.
''We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change,'' said Rhian Rotz, spokesman for WE.
Weber Shandwick would also not take any campaign to block regulations cutting carbon emissions or promoting renewable energy. ''We would not support a campaign that denies the existence and the threat posed by climate change, or efforts to obstruct regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions and/or renewable energy standards,'' spokeswoman Michelle Selesky said.
''There may be scenarios in which we could represent a client that has different views on climate change, just not on this issue.''
The UK-based WPP, the world's largest advertising firm by revenue and parent company of Burson Marsteller and Oglivy Public Relations, said taking on a client or campaign disputing climate change would violate company guidelines.
''We ensure that our own work complies with local laws, marketing codes and our own code of business conduct. These prevent advertising that is intended to mislead and the denial of climate change would fall into this category,'' the company said.
However, Fiona McEwan, a spokeswoman for the company, said the 150 companies within WPP made their own decisions on clients and would not rule out campaigns opposing regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The US-based Edelman, which is the world's largest independently owned PR firm, did not explicitly rule out taking on climate deniers as clients.
''Expanding the dialogue in a constructive manner, and driving productive outcomes to solve energy challenges are the key criteria for evaluating client engagements,'' said spokesman Michael Bush.
He said Edelman takes on clients on a case-by-case basis.
The PR firms were responding to surveys conducted independently by the Guardian and the Climate Investigations Centre, a Washington-based group that conducts research on climate disinformation campaigns. This could have a knock-on effect on the advertising and lobbying campaigns targeting Barack Obama's regulations limiting carbon emissions from power plants, and the international negotiations for a climate change treaty, now entering a critical phase.
''The PR industry is a major component of the influence peddling industry that stretches across Washington and the world, and they are making large sums of money from energy companies and other important players that have businesses connected to fossil fuels and energy policy,'' said Kert Davies, the founder of Climate Investigations.
Davies said his group took on the research to try to get a better grasp of the mechanics behind the framing of messages on climate change '' and the disinformation campaign.
Over the past few years, environmental groups and scientists have been looking more closely at the messaging around climate change, in part to examine their own failings to build broader public support for action.
In the process, PR firms have grown even more influential in shaping the debate around climate policy, said James Hoggan, who ran his own public relations firm in Vancouver and founded DeSmogBlog, a blog that describes itself as ''clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science''.
''I think that public relations people are right at the elbow of powerful people in industry and government,'' he said. ''You are an insider '' a very trusted insider '' and you can have a huge influence. It really does matter. These are influential organisations.''
Some of the firms, such as Finn Partners, have a strong reputation for taking on environmental causes. ''Finn Partners would not work on any campaigns that deny the reality of climate change nor would we take on a campaign that would obstruct regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or renewable energy standards,'' said managing partner Peter Finn.
WE said it had worked on campaigns to expand production tax credits for wind energy. Oglivy Public Relations told CIC that it recognised the risks of climate change, and that it had worked on campaigns for WWF and Greenpeace. But it declined to comment on whether it would represent clients that deny climate change. Qorvis, a Washington DC-based PR company, and its parent company MSL Group, also declined to answer that question.
Other companies however appear concerned with trying to represent environmental campaign groups as well as industry, according to Davies.
Only 10 of the 25 firms responded to multiple emails, phone calls and certified letters from the CIC, either directly or through a parent company.
Firms that refused to comment include those that have worked for groups calling for action on climate change '' as well as those seeking to block those efforts.
Hill & Knowlton, for example, was hired as the official media sponsor for the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. The company declined to respond to the CIC survey.
Several of the companies, such as WPP, WE, Oglivy, and Edelman have ambitious in-house programmes for reducing their carbon footprint. Qorvis Communications , a subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, said it had been calculating its carbon footprint since 2009.
But even those firms with robust internal carbon accounting systems, such as Edelman, were reluctant to go on record.
Edelman's client list includes the American Petroleum Institute, the main energy lobby, which opposes Barack Obama's climate change agenda. Edelman also carried out campaigns supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas.
An initial response to CIC from Edelman inadvertently included an internal email which said: ''I don't believe we are obligated in any way to respond. There are only wrong answers for this guy.''
Edelman did in the end respond to the CIC and the Guardian.
Screengrab of Edelman email conversationOther firms said they had signed on to the United Nations global compact on sustainable business. However, the compact does not explicitly commit companies to policies on climate change.
Seven of the firms told the researchers their companies saw climate change as a threat. But a smaller number would rule out taking on clients that deny climate change is occurring, or work on campaigns that seek to block policies to deal with climate change.
''For the majority of them, they would rather remain neutral on any issue,'' Davies said. ''They don't want to have positions on anything because they like to keep options open to take on any client who walks in the door. They pretend they are above the fray and they are not involved, and yet they are the ones designing ad campaigns, designing lobbying campaigns, and designing the messages their clients want to convey around climate change.''
The Climate Investigations Centre sent out surveys in April to the world's top 25 firms asking them to go on the record about their views on climate change.
The short survey asked:
Does your company acknowledge the threat and challenge of climate change as companies like Walmart, CocaCola, Apple, Google, AIG, Swiss Re, NRG, Unilever and others have done?Does your company have any internal carbon accounting policies or energy use reduction targets? Have you taken actions to reduce your ''carbon footprint''?Does your company have an internal Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy regarding climate change or the environment generally?Has your agency advised any client corporations on communications around CSR programmes with a specific climate change focus, or on other climate change related public relations efforts?The Guardian followed up by asking firms if they would take on clients that deny the existence of man-made climate change or campaigns seeking to block regulations dealing with climate change.
How the World's Biggest PR Firm Helps Promote Climate Change Denial | Motherboard
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 05:14
When a recent Guardian survey asked top public relations firms if they would refuse to represent organizations that denied climate change, the response was encouraging: ten of the largest said they would. Decidedly less inspiring was the response of the world's single biggest PR company, Edelman, which said it would not rule out helping corporations spread messages of climate change denial.
This shouldn't be too surprising, seeing as how it's already doing precisely that. A lot. Edelman helps polluting companies use TV ads, astroturf groups, and slick websites to promote climate change denial around the globe.
Edelman is "the largest PR firm in the world," according to Holmes' 2014 World Report, and "has now held the number one spot for the past four years." It raked in $741 million in revenues last year. A decent chunk of that comes from keeping the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's chief trade association and lobbying group, as one of its top clients. According to documents obtained by the Investigative Fund this year, API retained Edelman for $52 million.
Most of that cash was dedicated to helping the oil industry lobby the federal government to roll back regulations and to approve new emissions-heavy fossil fuel projects. "On behalf of API, Edelman managed multiple websites and online advertising efforts asking officials to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, support tax deductions for the oil industry and expand access for drilling on public lands," the Fund noted.
API's public materials are slippery on the climate issue; its press releases routinely misrepresent climate science while striving to avoid outright denial that might get it skewered. In "An Overview of the Climate Change Issue from the US Oil and Natural Gas Industry," API writes that "possible man-made warming is uncertain as the extent and timing of potential impacts," though it admits emissions "may be... enhancing the natural greenhouse effect."
That's technically not entirely false, but it's contextually misleading. It's an expert bit of PR semantics'--perhaps obtained from Edelman'--that drastically downplays the actual risks of climate change. It's climate change denial. A huge majority of scientists'--97 percent of them'--agree that manmade emissions are causing climate change. Period. But its public-facing statements are nothing compared to the superstructure of climate obfuscation API enables.
In a 2012 report, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters showed that API was at the heart of what it called the "climate denial machine." API funds a network of conservative think tanks and public climate skeptics who help disseminate the scientifically invalid view that climate change is not caused by fossil fuels and human activity, presumably at Edelman's encouragement, or at least its implicit consent.
API has given money to the Cato Institute, which promotes the work of Patrick Michaels, one of the most influential American climate skeptics'--his work has been roundly criticized, and is routinely debunked by his fellow scientists. Yet, thanks in part to API backing, Michaels promulgates his counterfactual take on news outlets, in policy briefings, even at Congressional hearings.
Worse is Steve Milloy, a lawyer and former tobacco industry consultant, who "was hired by the American Petroleum Institute to develop a PR strategy to downplay the threat of climate change," according to Media Matters. API cash also flows into the coffers of the personnel at the American Tradition Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, two organizations that work to promote the view that climate change hasn't been scientifically proven to be a threat.
I can't say if or how Edelman influences or advises those public relations plays, as the company failed to respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. But API undoubtedly sows climate denial'--which is enough for the world's other top firms to say they'd back off.
''We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change,'' said Rhian Rotz, spokesman for WE, another major PR company that participated in the Guardian survey.
Neither would Weber Shandwick, which is the second largest PR firm in the world. ''We would not support a campaign that denies the existence and the threat posed by climate change, or efforts to obstruct regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions and/or renewable energy standards,'' spokeswoman Michelle Selesky said.
Apparently, Edelman has no such qualms.
But API isn't the only polluting body Edelman flacks for. Edelman, which according to its own list of accomplishments, "created environmental PR with StarKist Dolphin-Safe Tuna" (which isn't, by the way), has a rich history of greenwashing and working with companies that promote climate change denial. It attracted the ire of climate activists for helping to advocate a major UK coal plant operated by energy company E.On. "Edelman is spinning the climate out control," they said.
Among its primary tactics, as noted by Corporate Watch, is the use of third-party front groups'--fake organizations built expressly to be used as a public relations tool. One of its newest creations is the Northwest Alliance for Jobs and Exports, an astroturf group dedicated to opening coal export terminals in Washington and Oregon. Part of the group's line is, naturally, that exporting American coal to China is good for the planet.
Lauri Hennessey, an Edelman vice president, told the Seattle Times that because American coal is less dense than Chinese coal, it's a net gain'--and people are going to burn coal no matter what, so it might as well be American. ''The more you dig into the whole complicated issue, I feel very, very proud about being involved,'' she said.
But Edelman's most famous use of astroturf groups on the energy front is probably its effort to stage a series of television ads with API starring "REAL PEOPLE not actors" sharing their opinions on the oil industry. It went awry when they were forced to dismiss a clean energy advocate who went on camera and said he wanted clean jobs.
The Investigative Fund alleges that some of Edelman's pro-oil and gas projects are so blatantly politically targeted that it should be registered as a lobbying group'--and that by not doing so, it's breaking the law.
"Despite [its] seemingly obvious lobbying activity, Edelman has not registered as a lobbying firm since 2006. The so-called 'grassroots advocacy' that the firm specializes in falls outside the statutory definition in the Lobbying Disclosure Act," the Fund wrote in its report.
In other words, Edelman is so aggressive in blurring the lines with its promotion of fossil fuel companies, it may be engaging in illegal behavior.
Clearly, this is not the industry standard. The rest of the world's top PR companies can disavow climate change denial, and many working in the industry want no part of such work.
"I think there is a moral obligation for all of us to fight the causes of climate change," Silvio Marcacci, a PR professional who runs his own shop, Marcacci Communications, told me. "And I personally would not be able to work at a firm that did climate denier or fossil fuel work. Because this is a thing that we all have to work on together."
"Other people might have their own ethics," he added.
According to an anonymous tipster who worked at the company in 2008, part of Edelman's 'media training' includes the following instruction: "Sometimes, you just have to stand up there and lie. Make the audience or the reporter believe that everything is ok."
That's exactly, it seems, what they're doing with climate change.
US sent Latin youth undercover in anti-Cuba ploy - The Washington Post
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 21:54
An investigation reveals that USAID, which set up a Cuban Twitter-like social media network, also ran an HIV clinic in Cuba as a front to recruit potential political activists against the Communist regime. (AP)
By Associated PressAugust 4
WASHINGTON '-- Fernando Murillo was typical of the young Latin Americans deployed by a U.S. agency to work undercover in Cuba. He had little training in the dangers of clandestine operations '-- or how to evade one of the world's most sophisticated counter-intelligence services.
Their assignment was to recruit young Cubans to anti-government activism, which they did under the guise of civic programs, including an HIV prevention workshop. Murillo was instructed to check in every 48 hours and was provided with a set of security codes. ''I have a headache,'' for instance, meant the Costa Rican thought the Cubans were watching him and the mission should be suspended.
Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development '-- best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid '-- sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba. The danger was apparent to USAID, if not to the young operatives: A USAID contractor, American Alan Gross, had just been hauled away to a Cuban jail for smuggling in sensitive technology. He remains there still.
USAID hired Creative Associates International, a Washington-based company, as part of a civil society program against Cuba's communist government. The same company was central to the creation of a ''Cuban Twitter'' '-- a messaging network revealed in April by The Associated Press, designed to reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans.
According to internal documents obtained by the AP and interviews in six countries, USAID's young operatives posed as tourists, visited college campuses and used a ruse that could undermine USAID's credibility in critical health work around the world: An HIV-prevention workshop one called the ''perfect excuse'' to recruit political activists, according to a report by Murillo's group. For all the risks, some travelers were paid as little as $5.41 an hour.
On Monday, the Obama administration defended the program, even while it acknowledged that the HIV workshop served a dual purpose. It ''enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention,'' State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees USAID, said in response to the AP's findings: ''It may have been good business for USAID's contractor, but it tarnishes USAID's long track record as a leader in global health.''
On the other hand, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said USAID's programs were important for human rights in Cuba. ''We must continue to pressure the Castro regime and support the Cuban people, who are oppressed on a daily basis,'' said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban native and vocal supporter of pro-democracy programs there.
The travelers program was launched during a time when newly inaugurated President Barack Obama spoke about a ''new beginning'' with Cuba after decades of mistrust, raising questions about whether the White House had a coherent policy toward the island nation.
There's no evidence that the program advanced the mission to create a pro-democracy movement against the government of Raul Castro. Creative Associates declined to comment, referring questions to USAID.
USAID would not say how much the Costa Rica-based program cost. In response to questions from the AP, the agency issued a statement that said, ''USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future. USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.''
But the AP investigation revealed an operation that often teetered on disaster. Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers came dangerously close to blowing their mission to ''identify potential social-change actors.'' And there was no safety net for the inexperienced travelers, who were doing work that was explicitly illegal in Cuba.
''Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,'' the workers' instructions read. ''Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.''
After Gross was arrested, USAID privately told contractors that they should consider suspending travel to Cuba, according to emails obtained by the AP.
''We value your safety,'' one senior USAID official said in an email, less than a week after Gross was seized.
''The guidance applies to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens,'' another official wrote.
And yet four months later, in April 2010, Murillo was sent to Havana.
Murillo, then 29, was the charismatic head of a human-rights group in Costa Rica called Fundacion Operacion Gaya Internacional, which had been contracted by Creative Associates to turn Cuba's apathetic young people into effective political actors.
He headed to Santa Clara, a city three hours from Havana, where Murillo connected with a cultural group that called itself ''Revolution,'' a modest outfit of artists devoted to electronic music and video.
Murillo wasn't there long before a state security officer, Carlos Pozo, took notice '-- a problem Murillo reported to Creative Associates, records show.
If the idea was to hold a series of seminars to recruit new ''volunteers,'' Murillo needed a theme that would both draw in potential recruits and still be sanctioned by the state.
An HIV-prevention workshop was just the thing.
Months later, in November 2010, the workshop drew 60 people. Pozo also participated '-- evidence, Murillo said, that his scheme was working.
The workshop was supposed to offer straightforward sex education for HIV prevention, such as the proper way to use a condom.
''Cubans expressed a desire for information and training about HIV prevention, and the workshop helped to address their needs,'' USAID said in response to written questions.
But the ulterior motive, documents show, was to use the workshop as a recruiting ground for young people by showing them how to organize themselves.
This was a strategy that the travelers hoped to spread across the island: The newly organized young people would tackle a community or social problem, win a ''small victory'' and ultimately realize that they could be the masters of their own destiny.
Reached in San Jose, Costa Rica, Murillo said he could not speak about the details of his Cuba trips because he had signed a nondisclosure agreement. He said he wasn't trying to do anything beyond teach people how to use condoms properly.
''I never said to a Cuban that he had to do something against the government. If that was the mission of others, I don't know,'' Murillo said. ''I never told a Cuban what he had to do.''
Nevertheless, Murillo's six-page report back to Creative Associates mentioned HIV only once, to note that it was ''the perfect excuse for the treatment of the underlying theme.'' Elsewhere, the report revealed another objective: ''to generate a network of volunteers for social transformation.''
Manuel Barbosa, a founder of Revolution, said in a recent interview in Santa Clara the Costa Ricans never told him that they were working for USAID.
He said he has no anti-government leanings, in fact, his grandfather was a ''martyr of the revolution.''
Staging a workshop as a front to subvert a foreign government risked casting suspicion on USAID's legitimate public health mission, including a more than $3 billion annual HIV program that the agency says has helped some 50 million people in nearly 100 countries. The CIA recently pledged to stop using vaccine programs to gather intelligence, such as one in Pakistan that targeted Osama bin Laden.
An evaluation prepared for USAID by Creative Associates cited the workshop as a ''success story.'' The group's final report said the workshop would be used as a blueprint across the island.
But Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona and longtime critic of USAID's Cuba projects, said, ''These programs are in desperate need of adult supervision. If you are using an AIDS workshop as a front for something else, that's ... I don't know what to say ... it's just wrong.''
While Murillo and the Costa Rican travelers focused on the HIV workshop and other programs, teams of Venezuelans and Peruvians were deployed to Cuba's college campuses. Their mission, documents and interviews show, was to recruit university students with the long-term goal of turning them against their government.
In late 2009, Creative Associates contracted with Venezuelan lawyer Zaimar Castillo, then 22, who ran an organization called Renova. Castillo declined to comment, but her former administrator, Yajaira Andrade, said she was flown to San Jose for training.
''They gave us a week of classes, teaching us what we were going to do and how we were going to do it,'' said Andrade, who called herself the ''mom'' of the young activists.
At the time, Venezuela's president, the late Hugo Chavez, was the closest ally of brothers Fidel and Raul Castro '-- doubling the risk for Renova. They set up a bank account for their contract dollars in Panama, a haven for anonymous banking.
''We worked it so that the government here didn't know we were traveling to Cuba and helping these groups,'' Andrade said. ''Because that was when Chavez was in power, and if he had known about us '-- that some Venezuelans were working to stir rebellion '-- we would have been thrown in jail.''
On April 24, 2010, three Renova colleagues landed in Havana for a month-long visit. Their ''cover story,'' according to an internal document, was that they were visiting Cuban friends.
''It's fundamental that they don't get obsessed,'' said Creative Associates manager Xavier Utset, who now works at USAID, in a Skype chat. ''Otherwise on the ground, they will freeze ... or they will betray themselves ... and both things are fatal.''
The Venezuelans visited the dorms on campus at the university in Santa Clara and took weekend trips to meet the families of the students. A separate team of young Peruvians also targeted the university in Santa Clara.
In a trip account that reads like an intelligence report, the Venezuelans describe the students and their facilities in great detail, noting complaints and fairness issues that might be exploited. Potential recruits were listed by name, and then profiled, their leadership qualities assessed in a spreadsheet.
The report went on to describe the political culture of the university, including the role of the Union of Communist Youth, which sought to groom the best and brightest for party posts after graduation. Student gripes also were detailed: bad food, intermittent water and electricity, leaks in the ceilings. The students feared the state and were dissatisfied with their economic reality, according to the report, but were politically apathetic just the same.
The fact that the students were constantly criticizing the regime, they reported, ''assures us of having beneficiaries with a clear mind as to the objectives that we are pursuing.''
After visiting two universities in two cities, the Venezuelan consultants identified a ''target group'' of students they thought both opposed the government and had organizational skills, having put together on their own activities like ''camping'' and ''a university festival,'' documents show.
''They established one group of 30 people, young people studying science, to rebel against the government,'' said Andrade, the Renova administrator.
There's no evidence the political objectives were ever realized. In fact, their Cuban contacts in recent interviews with the AP said they were astonished to discover that the foreigners were acting on behalf of the U.S. government.
''They were our friends,'' said Cuban Hector Baranda, who topped the Venezuelans' list of potential converts.
He thinks the visitors may have mistaken typical Cuban griping as dissident tendencies. Cuban authorities have little tolerance for counterrevolutionary opposition, but letters to the Communist Party newspaper Granma complain regularly about unfilled potholes, uncollected garbage and Cuba's impenetrable bureaucracy.
''A Cuban always says 'aggggh,' whether (the problems are) big or small,'' Baranda said.
Cuba considers all of USAID's democracy promotion work to be subversive, punishable by up to 10 years behind bars. It was a risky business for the travelers.
Over time, Creative Associates adjusted its security strategy. It warned against the use of encrypted flash drives stamped conspicuously with the word ''IronKey,'' '-- that was a giveaway at airport security. Travelers were encouraged to bring in laptops packed with photos and personal data to mask their mission material.
In case of arrest, Creative Associates was not to be mentioned, a report said, travelers were told to contact their home country's embassy.
Under questioning, Creative Associates advised the travelers to keep their cool. They should remember that ''nothing that you have done during your trip is illegal, in any way, in any open and democratic society. In this way, you can maintain a calm demeanor during the interrogation.''
But despite efforts to hide their intentions, by late 2010, there were signs the Cubans were catching on.
A security officer asked who was funding Murillo's project. Creative Associates concluded that the questioning left ''no room for doubt about the interest they brought to themselves by the state police.''
Worse yet, a December security report suggested the Cubans had figured out that the United States was targeting young people instead of the aging ranks of well-known Castro opponents.
When one Cuban asked a traveler why he was interested in Cuba, he responded that his organization worked with many countries.
''Of course, this is not accurate'' said the report. If the Cubans checked out the story, they would have known it was a lie.
On Sept. 3, 2010, Irving Perez, a manager at Creative Associates' office in San Jose, called a meeting via Skype to announce a change in strategy.
''Our program will no longer rely on trips to the island, at least not as the backbone of the operation,'' Perez told two Peruvian travelers. Several of the grants would be terminated, including the Venezuelans'.
Instead of traveling to Cuba, they would try to help certain ''star contacts'' get exit visas to train in a third country. The Cuban ''beneficiaries'' left on the island would receive cash payments to run the recruitment efforts. Creative Associates' subcontractors would bring cash to the islanders using ''mules,'' a term borrowed from drug smuggling.
They would ''try to manage the project by remote control,'' Perez explained.
But that strategy had its own perils.
For a month, Perez had been asking for a report from a pair of Cuban college students, anxious to file his paperwork for USAID.
The students had been using encrypted Hushmail. That might have raised a red flag to Cuban authorities who monitor Internet activity.
''We have reasons to believe that they have been under great pressure from university authorities,'' a Creative Associates report says. ''It is not recommended at this time to try to reach them again.''
The Costa Rican grant fell apart on Murillo's third trip to the island in June, 2011. Creative Associates wanted him to deliver money, collect reports and help arrange exit visas. Managers worried that Murillo was indiscreet. ''Why are these guys not using Hushmail?'' lamented a Creative Associates manager.
To deliver the money, contractors discussed sending it with Murillo's relatives. One manager in San Jose wrote, ''It should be remembered that the 'mule' doesn't know exactly what the money is for nor where it comes from.''
In the end, the ''mule'' was Murillo's childhood friend, who recounted the experience in an interview with the AP on condition of anonymity. The friend, who lives in San Jose, said being associated with USAID's political agenda in Cuba would jeopardize his employment.
He said his security training took about a half hour over Skype. ''It was made clear to me that I must be careful because the money we carried was gringo.''
After arriving in Havana, the pair headed to Santa Clara to meet with Revolution, the arts group. One member, not Barbosa, told them to hand over the money he knew they were carrying, he said.
''He threatened us directly that if we didn't give him the money, he would go to the authorities and denounce us,'' said Murillo's friend.
Murillo declined to comment.
Unsettled, the travelers hurried back to Havana, and invoking one of the security codes from a hotel, abandoned the project. The friend was terrified.
''If they had detained or even just interrogated me,'' he said, ''I would have died of a heart attack from fright.''
Arce reported from San Jose, Costa Rica, and Rodriguez from Santa Clara, Cuba. Associated Press writers Hannah Dreier in Caracas, Venezuela; Peter Orsi in Havana; Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru; Raphael Satter in Dublin and Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.
Contact the AP's Washington investigative team at DCinvestigations@ap.org. On Twitter, follow Butler at https://twitter.com/desmondbutler; Gillum at https://twitter.com/jackgillum; Arce at https://twitter.com/alberarce and Rodriguez at https://twitter.com/arodriguezap.
Online: View documents about the program at http://apne.ws/UxJ05x.
Another in a series of stories detailing secret American political activity in Cuba under the Obama administration, including the creation of a secret U.S.-backed ''Cuban Twitter'' program.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
HIV FRONT-Groups: US Political Effort in Cuba Hurts Aid Work - ABC News
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 03:48
A U.S. program in Cuba that secretly used an HIV-prevention workshop for political activism was assailed Monday by international public health officials and members of Congress who declared that such clandestine efforts put health programs at risk around the world.
Beginning in late 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development deployed nearly a dozen young people from Latin America to Cuba to recruit political activists, an Associated Press investigation found. The operation put the foreigners in danger not long after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday it would be "worse than irresponsible" if USAID "concocted" an HIV-prevention workshop to promote a political agenda.
And InterAction, an alliance of global non-governmental aid groups, said, "The use of an HIV workshop for intelligence purposes is unacceptable. The U.S. government should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal."
The Obama administration defended its use of the HIV-prevention workshop for its Cuban democracy-promotion efforts but disputed that the project was a front for political purposes. The program "enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Documents and interviews make clear that the program was aimed at recruiting a younger generation of opponents to Cuba's Castro government. It is illegal in Cuba to work with foreign democracy-building programs. Documents prepared for the USAID-sponsored program called the HIV workshop the "perfect excuse" to conduct political activity.
Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees USAID, said in response to the AP's findings: "It may have been good business for USAID's contractor, but it tarnishes USAID's long track record as a leader in global health."
The White House is still facing questions about a once-secret "Cuban Twitter" project, known as ZunZuneo. That program, launched by USAID in 2009 and uncovered by the AP in April, established a primitive social media network under the noses of Cuban officials. USAID's inspector general is investigating it.
In April, Leahy called the ZunZuneo program "dumb, dumb, dumb."
But on Monday, not all lawmakers were critical.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said USAID's programs were important for human rights in Cuba. "We must continue to pressure the Castro regime and support the Cuban people, who are oppressed on a daily basis," said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban native and vocal supporter of pro-democracy programs there.
As for health projects, the latest criticisms come months after a pledge by the CIA to stop using vaccine programs '-- such as one in Pakistan that targeted Osama bin Laden '-- to gather intelligence.
In the HIV workshop effort, the AP's investigation found the Latin American travelers' efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk. The young workers nearly blew their mission to "identify potential social-change actors." One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.
In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.
AP: USAID used HIV workshop as front for espionage in Cuba Hot Air
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 03:48
posted at 10:41 am on August 4, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Four months ago, the Associated Press uncovered an abortive attempt by the US Agency for International Development to create a Twitter-like social media network in Cuba in order to facilitate unrest and revolution against the Castro communist government. That operation may have seemed like a lark, but now the AP reports that it wasn't the only covert operation for USAID in Cuba. The agency used HIV prevention among its covers for provoking youth into rebellion, a discovery that may put more of its operations under scrutiny elsewhere:
Beginning as early as October 2009, a project overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of ginning up rebellion. The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled around the island scouting for people they could turn into political activists.
In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called ''the perfect excuse'' for the program's political goals '-- a gambit that could undermine America's efforts to improve health globally.
But their efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk, an Associated Press investigation found: Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to ''identify potential social-change actors.'' One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.
''Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,'' read a memo obtained by the AP. ''Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.''
In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.
The aim of the programs isn't in question. The Castro regime has a brutal human-rights record and has subjected Cubans to misery and poverty for decades. The US has always considered Cuba as a key interest, and the Castro regime as a problem to be solved, although every administration since Dwight Eisenhower's has failed to free the Cubans from despotism. Fidel Castro, now apparently semi-retired, has been wily enough to play the rest of the world against the US and survive, and now his brother Raul has managed to do so for the last several years as the dictator.
The choice of agency, though, is more than a little curious. USAID styles itself as an outreach agency to ''end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity,'' which is a noble enough mission when conducted overtly. It operates around the world to fight poverty and disease, particularly HIV. They also use their investment dollars quite explicitly to promote democracy in places such as Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Cubans probably wouldn't allow USAID to operate that openly on those efforts, but that may not be the only place where that's true and where USAID is working on global health initiatives. This expos(C) will have some of those countries wondering just what USAID is doing with HIV workshops and other seemingly innocuous and beneficial efforts.
USAID issued a statement denying the story, but not very specifically:
Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to empower Cubans to access more information and strengthen civil society. USAID makes information about its Cuba programs available publicly at foreignassistance.gov. This work is not secret, it is not covert, nor is it undercover. Instead, it is important to our mission to support universal values, end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. Chief among those universal values are the right to speak freely, assemble and associate without fear, and freely elect political leaders. Sadly, the Cuban people and many others in the global community continue to be denied these basic rights.
One paragraph in the article captures the purpose of these and many civil society programs, which is to empower citizens to ''tackle a community or social problem, win a 'small victory' and ultimately realize that they could be the masters of their own destiny.'' But the story then goes on to make sensational claims against aid workers for supporting civil society programs and striving to give voice to these democratic aspirations. This is wrong.
If the AP misreported the story, then ''this is wrong'' definitely applies to them. If the AP got it right, though, ''this is wrong'' may apply better to efforts to use USAID and its poorly-trained recruits into a covert-ops agency.
BBC News - Afghan candidate claims poll fixed after 'leak'
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 04:38
3 August 2014Last updated at 20:03 ET One of Afghanistan's presidential candidates has aired a tape that he claims is proof of an agreement to fix the election in favour of his rival.
Abdullah Abdullah said the leaked tape showed that the international community as well as the current president, had been colluding in order to ensure the success of his rival, Ashraf Ghani.
A spokesman for Mr Ghani denied the claim, calling the recording a fake.
Earlier both candidates agreed that a full audit of votes should resume.
Preliminary results suggested Mr Ghani had won June's election, but both candidate have accused the other of electoral fraud.
The alleged leak tape claimed to show current vice president Karim Khalili telling election workers of secret deal to fix the election in favour of Mr Ghani.
Abdullah Abdullah's campaign manager said the recording showed that "the election result has been decided already with the consultation of the government and the international community".
The claim was vehemently denied by Mr Ghani's spokesman, Abbas Basir.
"I want to announce solemnly that the audio file related to his excellency the second vice president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mr Khalili is fake" he said.
Continue reading the main storyAshraf GhaniAbdullah Abdullah Technocrat and former World Bank official. Open to talks with Taliban
Former anti-Soviet resistance member. Wary of Taliban talks
Leading in Pashtun-dominated southern provinces
Ahead in mainly Tajik northern areas
Backed by Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek ex-warlord accused of human rights abuses
Supported by wealthy Balkh governor Atta Mohammad, a bitter Dostum rival
Has support of Qayyum Karzai, brother of President Karzai
Also has backing of Mohamed Mohaqiq, powerful leader of ethnic Hazaras
Ahmed Zia Masood, whose brother was a famous resistance hero, helped balance ticket
Gul Agha Sherzai, an influential Pashtun, helped bring ethnic balance to ticket
Continue reading the main storyThe review of all 8m ballots had stalled amid disagreements over observers and procedural issues.
It restarted on Sunday without the approval of Mr Abdullah.
But international officials said that both candidates have now agreed to the terms of a total audit.
Afghanistan's current President Hamid Karzai, who came to office after the US-led overthrow of the Taliban, is stepping down after more than 10 years.
Rival Afghan presidential candidates sign deal to cooperate after Kerry visit..
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:51
By Lesley Wroughton
KABULFri Aug 8, 2014 4:04pm BST
1 of 5. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks as Afghanistan's presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai looks on during a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Kabul August 8, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Massoud Hossaini/Pool
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates have agreed in writing to work together to form a government of national unity, both candidates told a news conference, following meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.
A joint declaration signed by both candidates, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, did not provide details on the government framework, except to say that both sides would form commissions to work on its structure.
"One of these men is going to be president, but both are going to be critical to the future of Afghanistan, no matter what," Kerry told reporters in Kabul.
The joint declaration stated that the candidates would agree to a timeline for the electoral process and an inauguration date for the next president by the end of August.
However, it did not appear to signal significant progress from the original deal, also brokered by Kerry when he was in Kabul in July, aimed at ending the bitter dispute between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
There were no fresh details of how a government of national unity might work, after meetings between Kerry and the Afghan candidates during his overnight stay.
"The two parties affirm they are committed to sincerely cooperate ... and draw up the detailed text of the political agreement in light of the constitution and the political framework agreement reached on July 12," the declaration said.
The power sharing deal, agreed verbally a month ago, was intended to reduce the risk of a violence flaring between the different ethnic groups represented by the two presidential hopefuls.
Abdullah has complained of widespread fraud during the run-off election held in June, and the United Nations is supervising a full recount of all eight million votes as agreed during Kerry's earlier visit.
That audit has been beset by delays and haggling, increasing the level of mistrust between the two camps.
"This audit is not about winning and losing, it is about achieving a credible result that people of Afghanistan deserve," Kerry added.
The two candidates, former finance minister Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah, stood by Kerry as he spoke.
They appeared at ease, save for a moment of embarrassment when Kerry invited the next president of Afghanistan to answer a reporter's question and both stepped forward. In the end, Ghani took the podium first.
The election was to mark Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power before most foreign troops pull out at the end of 2014.
Afghanistan's Western backers hope an audit of votes will produce a legitimate president before a NATO summit in early September.
"The audit was at a point where you could fairly easily predict that it was going to break down again," said Martine van Bijlert, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul, adding that Kerry appeared reassured by the candidates' promise to cooperate.
Whether they were likely to agree on a unity government by the end-August deadline, however, remained to be seen.
"It depends on how seriously they continue to take the audit, how contested the rules continue to be and whether they'll be able to maintain a level of trust."
(Additional reporting by Krista Mahr; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mike Collett-White)
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Will Turkmenistan emerge as a new energy giant?
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:31
Once seen as a small and isolated country, Turkmenistan, having gained independence in 1991, started to emerge within the economic sphere of Russia. Over the past couple of years, however, this has started to change. Thanks to Turkmenistan's rather impressive gas and oil reserves and to China's new role as a major energy partner, the country's energy exports are destined for bigger growth and with new horizons to pursue. In addition, the country's new leadership, under President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, has introduced large-scale reforms aimed at opening up this Central Asian country to global markets. The year 2015 will mark a crucial turning point as regards further development.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan was among five countries in Central Asia to gain independence.
Separmurad Niyazov, who was president at the time, implemented a policy of quasi-isolation. It was marked by the formation of a sort of ''personality cult'' and was based on a one party system. Very little was done in terms of fighting corruption or shifting the economy into gear. Only after his death in 2006 when a new president took the helm with a new administration did Turkmenistan turn the page to a whole new chapter in its history.
The reason must be the country's tremendous potential, especially in the energy sector.
Turkmenistan today has proven gas reserves of up to 32 trillion cubic metres (tcm), with an annual production of 80bn cubic meters (bcm). With such reserves, Turkmenistan is fourth in the world after Russia, Iran and Qatar.
Turkmenistan's Galkynysh field, for instance, is one of the five largest in the world.
Proven oil reserves are just as important. These are estimated at 12m tonnes '' about 600 million barrels.
But until 2009, Turkmen gas exports were more or less conditioned by Russia's needs and energy policies. In fact, the country's gas exports between 1991 and 1997 were largely controlled by a Russian interest company now owned by Rosneft.
With Turkmen gas flowing to the markets via the old Soviet pipelines, Russia was also able to control the prices and payment method. Turkmenistan, for instance, was paid half up front (in cash) and the other half on a barter-basis.
Disputes between Turkmenistan and Russia began in 1997 when Turkmenistan cut off gas supplies. Since then, the situation experienced a great many ups and downs, despite the fact that the new president worked hard to normalise bilateral relations. Since 2009, the trade of gas between Russia and Turkmenistan has been stabilising, but experts argue that it lacks any ''ambition to increase''.
In addition, the Central Asian Centre (CAC), the first export corridor for Turkmen gas '' the one that glows straight to the Russian market, is very old and poorly maintained. Constructed between 1966 and 1978, it has now been rendered defunct by new systems of gas transport.
Meanwhile, a new powerful player has emerged in the country, as in many other Central Asian Republics. It is China and its need for more energy is on the rise.
For instance, China has emerged as the most successful foreign investor in Turkmenistan. In 2013, the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement.
The China National Petroil Company, which includes capitals from companies from Korea and UAE, embarked on a colossal new investment: the construction of the China-Central Asia Pipeline, which will bring Turkmen gas to Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The initial estimation of the project was $8bn. Initiated in 2009, part of the pipeline is already in operation, connecting eastern Turkmenistan to Xinjang through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Its initial capacity is 30 bcm per year, but its aim is to reach 80 bcm.
According to some estimates, Turkmenistan will supply more than 40% of China's gas by 2020. Chinese companies are also the only foreign investors who enjoy direct access to a gas field.
But this is not enough. Turkmenistan's is aiming to export its gas on a massive basis along other routes. One of them flows to Iran with a combined capacity of 20 bcm per year, despite Iran's financial problems.
Another route is more ambitious. It is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which stretches 1,735 km. The project is rather old, starting in 1993, and has been mired in a number of problems.
However, it is backed by the United States and covered by the Asian Development Bank. It will soon be back in action next year. Estimated to cost some $7.6bn to complete, it is slated to become operational by 2018.
Meanwhile, Western markets are also on Turkmenistan's agenda. An old idea for the creation of a trans-Caspian route which will send Turkmen gas to Europe through Azerbaijan (the Baku Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline) is also actively being pursued.
Initially opposed by Russia and Iran and then ostacolated by local disputes in the Caspian Sea area, it now seems possible. If all goes to plan, it will have an estimated capacity of 30 bcm per year.
This means Turkmenistan faces a new era as regards its energy industry. The period in which 40-45 bcm was absorbed by the Russian market is now history. Today's new client environment is more pluralistic, with China absorbing 52%, Iran 22% and Russia 24%.
There are many new horizons to pursue for Turkmen exports and the role that this Central Asian country can play in the world energy market. This is largely due to a series of reforms the country's president introduced.
In fact, since 2006, when Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov became president, large-scale legal (namely the introduction of the criminal code) and administrative (the taxation administration) reforms where introduced to make Turkmenistan friendlier to foreign investment.
Today, many international players like ExxonMobil, Chevron, British Gas, the Turkish Polimeks Inssat and Chalyk, the Israeli Merhav, Bonygues Batiment International, Siemens, Dragon Oil, Petronas as well as CNPC and PetroChina, operate in the country.
The political system has also changed. A new constitution was introduced. The parliament's responsibilities were expanded and it was allowed the existence of more parties even though all of them are still aligned with the presidential policies.
Although a part of the population doesn't enjoy the riches of the country, massive public subsidies are preventing social turmoil.
However, a major enemy of the successful turn of the market economy is obstacolated by corruption. According to the Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index, the Turkmenistan was ranked 168 out of 176 countries.
On a more positive note, Turkmenistan recently received positive feedback from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Given the fact that the implementation of the reforms has to be fruitful in the future and the fact that Turkmenistan has an enormous energy capacity, it would be no exaggeration to say that this country is an emerging giant in the world's energy market.
Taliban prisoner traded for Bowe Bergdahl a dangerous psychopath: Army colonel - Washington Times
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 05:18
In a pointed assessment, an Army colonel advising the National Security Council says one of the Taliban prisoners released in the Obama administration's deal to free Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal is a ''psychopath'' who poses a ''danger to fellow Afghans.''
Army Col. Mark Mitchell, director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is a Green Beret who helped capture Mullah Mohammad Fazl in the early days of the war in Afghanistan.
SEE ALSO: Bergdahl questioning set for Wednesday
In an interview with The Washington Times, Col. Mitchell offered a frank description of Fazl, calling him ''a petty tyrant who justified his psychopathic behavior using a veneer of religion'' who lost his stature and influence after his 2001 capture.
''Stripped of his power and authority, he was pathetic and contemptible. I have no doubt that he remains a psychopath, and he's probably a danger to fellow Afghans,'' he said.
But Col. Mitchell downplayed the likely impact of Fazl and the other Taliban leaders returning to Afghanistan, noting that they ''have been off the battlefield for 12 years. In that time, Afghanistan has changed, the Taliban has changed and other leaders have risen through the ranks while he's been enjoying a comfortable, if highly structured, life at Guantanamo Bay.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Max Bowers (back, center) called Mullah Mohammad Fazl ... more >''So, it won't be as simple as simply walking back through the door and picking up where he left off,'' the colonel said. ''There's lots of Afghans, probably even a few Talibs, that have no desire to see him back in Afghanistan, much less in any kind of position of authority.''
The Obama administration released Fazl and four other Taliban commanders May 31 from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl, who had been a Taliban prisoner since 2009. The Taliban leaders were taken to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where they are to remain under supervision for one year.
Among the seven special operations troops who captured Fazl in 2001 and were interviewed for this report, Col. Mitchell was alone in expressing confidence that the released Taliban leaders would not return to the battlefield before their supervision ends. They also noted Fazl's history of double-crossing and breaking deals with his enemies.
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Retired Army Lt. Col. Max Bowers called Fazl ''one of the hardest-looking people I had ever seen in my life.'' Col. Bowers was the ground commander of the three special operations teams who secretly rode on horseback in northern Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to root out the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Said Paul Beck, a retired Special Forces communications specialist: ''He was a war minister for the northern area of Afghanistan. He was in the top 10 bad guys over there. At the time, I thought, 'He's a very knowledgeable man, and we'd better watch out.'''
Mr. Beck and others noted a pivotal moment in 2001 during what was supposed to be Fazl's surrender negotiations with Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a warlord in Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, which opposed the Taliban and was being advised by U.S. Special Forces. (Gen. Dostum is now a vice presidential candidate in Afghanistan.)
Fazl was to become the general's ''guest'' in the city of Kunduz on the strict terms that he would physically lay down his arms to Gen. Dostum that night.
Two days earlier, hundreds of Fazl's militants abruptly surrendered after skirmishing with U.S. and Northern Alliance forces.
''Six hundred Taliban troops coming up from Kunduz. We were on that hilltop, and we didn't know what they were really going to do. Surrender?'' said Air Force Capt. Mike Sciortino, then a special operations combat controller. ''I was on the radios with two B-52s doing halo circles overhead as a show of force, fully loaded and ready to expend some ordnance if anything turned bad with Fazl's Taliban coming up the hill.''
Fazl's healthy fighters had been taken to a nearby fortress called Qala-Jangi for questioning by U.S. intelligence agents, including CIA agent Mike Spann.
Story Continues '†'
War on Ca$h
WAR ON CASH-DutchNews.nl - First station closes platforms to non-smart card holders
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:12
First station closes platforms to non-smart card holdersFriday 08 August 2014
Woerden in Utrecht province on Friday became the first NS railway station to close off its platforms to non-smart card holders.
From now on, only people with the public transport smart card will be able to access the station by checking in.
Anyone wishing to wave off or collect someone will need a smart card, but will not have to pay for a train trip. Checking in gives you one hour at the station without having to pay the basic tariff.
Woerden is one of five stations where the NS has been experimenting with closed barriers during rush hour since January.
The NS plans eventually to close off 82 stations completely and is testing this at 26 stations this year.
Right of passage
In cities such as Amsterdam Central, Leiden and Amersfoort the station is also a through-way from one side of the city to the other. In these cases, people will be able to load a 'right of passage' onto their smart card or apply to the local council for a special pass.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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German Interest Rates Go Negative
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:30
Aug. 7, 2014, 7:34 AM4,308The German bond market is considered one of the safe havens for investors looking to get out of riskier asset classes like stocks.As tensions remain high on the Ukraine-Russia border, German bond prices have been rallying, pushing yields lower and lower.
Earlier Thursday, the yield on Germany's two-year bond actually went negative, touching -0.004%.
In other words, investors are effectively paying the German government to hold their money.
And it's not just geopolitical turmoil that has investors worried. Just this week, we learned Italy slipped into recession. In the past two days, German factory orders and industrial production reports unexpectedly turned negative, confirming fears of a slowdown in Europe's biggest economy.
New retaliatory sanctions from Russia on Thursday include a ban on food imports from the European Union.
So, there are a plenty of reasons why investor might flock to things like German bonds.
ECB gets ready to pump cash into eurozone as fears rise over recovery
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 06:05
The European Central Bank is accelerating plans to unleash fresh growth-boosting measures as the eurozone's recovery loses steam and the risk increases of a geopolitical shock from the Ukraine crisis.
Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, said that the Bank had "intensified preparatory work" on quantitative easing as a potential new weapon in its battle against deflation and economic stagnation.
He revealed that the eurozone's policymakers were closer to using QE '' which would inject cash into the eurozone by acquiring assets such as bonds from financial institutions '' amid worrying signs that weak growth in the 18-member currency bloc is slowing further still.
"The recovery remains weak, fragile and uneven. In recent weeks, the data shows growth momentum is slowing down. It is quite clear that if geopolitical risks materialise, the next two quarters will show lower growth."
Recovery in the region is barely established, with GDP increasing by only 0.2% in the first quarter of the year.
Speaking at a press conference in Frankfurt, Draghi said sanctions and counter sanctions between the west and Russia were among the biggest risks facing the eurozone economy, with the potential to drive energy prices higher and depress exports. He stressed it was too early to say what the precise impact sanctions would have on the region.
Portugal uses EU bailout cash to shore up troubled Banco Espi­rito Santo.
Tue, 05 Aug 2014 08:55
Carlos Costa, governor of the Bank of Portugal, confirms the crisis-hit Banco Espirito Santo (BES) would receive a bailout amid fear of a bank run. Photograph: Patricia De Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images
Portugal injected almost '‚¬5bn into Banco Esp­rito Santo on Sunday night to stave off the collapse of the country's biggest bank following a series of financial scandals.
Carlos Costa, governor of the Bank of Portugal, said the bank's healthy businesses would be spun off into a "good" bank, while its toxic assets would be hived off into a "bad" bank.
The bailout plan, which was agreed with Brussels, was sparked by the far bigger than expected '‚¬3.5bn (£2.8bn) net loss reported last week by the bank. The loss wiped out its capital buffers and sent its shares falling by more than 75% before the stock was suspended on Friday.
Esp­rito Santo is expected to be delisted from the Lisbon stock exchange, meaning that shareholders will be wiped out.
Costa said the injection of money would come mostly from Portugal's international bailout, which made '‚¬6.4bn available for bank recapitalisation through a fund set up by Portugal in 2012.
The fund is aimed at limiting the political fallout from using taxpayers' money to prop up a bank at a time when Portugal is only just emerging from a deep economic downturn. Pedro Passos Coelho, the prime minister, had pledged that taxpayers would not be called on to bail out failing banks.
The "bad" bank will hold the troubled assets, mostly related to its exposure to the Esp­rito Santo family, which has faced difficulties after financial irregularities were uncovered at one of its array of holding companies last year.
An audit ordered by the Portuguese central bank earlier this year discovered material irregularities at the Luxembourg-registered ESI, part of the empire.
Ricardo Esp­rito Santo Salgado, the chief executive of Banco Esp­rito Santo, was forced to resign and he was detained last month in connection with an investigation into money laundering and tax evasion. Santo Salgado was understood to have been a voluntary witness and said in January 2013 that he had always paid his taxes.
The central bank ordered the bank to raise more capital, but potential investors were deterred by the publicity surrounding the allegations facing the wider group and the prospect of more impairments being revealed in the future.
Portugal was bailed out by the EU and International Monetary Fund with '‚¬78bn in 2011, but left the rescue programme in May. That has given the country more freedom, although it is still bound by requirements to reduce its budget deficit.
It still has '‚¬6.4bn left from the original '‚¬12bn put aside to recapitalise the banking industry. The fund is financed by all banks in Portugal and has representatives of the country's central bank and the government on its board.
Last month, concerns about the bank rattled European financial markets.
Europe's tough new regime for banks fails first test in Portugal - Telegraph
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 05:22
He accused the management of ''fraudulent schemes'' involving the rotation of funds across the world to deceive regulators. ''International experience shows that schemes of this kind are very hard to detect before they collapse,'' he said.
The rescue raises fresh doubts about the underlying health of the banks as Portugal grapples with debt deflation and a private and public debt burden near 380pc of GDP, the highest ratio in Europe. The plan splits Espirito Santo into a bad bank that retains the toxic assets, and a Banco Novo for normal depositors. The state will inject '‚¬4.5bn of public money, dipping into EU-IMF funds left over for bank recapitalisations. This will raise Portugal's net debt by 3pc of GDP.
Mr Passos Coelho said the money would be recouped when the new bank is sold off, insisting that there will be no extra costs for the taxpayer. Other Portuguese banks will have to cover any shortfall through a resolution fund. Megan Greene, from Maverick Intelligence, said this is wishful thinking: ''The losses could be much larger than people think. This is eerily similar to what happened in Ireland, and I think taxpayers will end up footing the bill.''
Frances Coppola, a banking expert at Pieria, said the plan fails to tackle moral hazard and will come back to haunt the Portuguese state. ''Those who brought down Banco Espirito Santo will walk away with the proceeds, and ordinary people will pay,'' she said.
The eurozone has yet to flesh out an accord reached two years ago to let its rescue fund (ESM) recapitalise banks directly to break the ''doom-loop'' between banks and sovereign states.
Jo£o Rendeiro, former head of BPP bank, said the collapse of Espirito Santo will do far more damage than claimed. ''The economic impact is gigantic. It could lead to a contraction of GDP by 7.6pc. I don't know of any parallel to this in our economic history,'' he said. Even a fraction of this would cause Portugal's debt ratio to spiral upwards.
Mr Passos Coelho took a major gamble by going for a ''clean exit'' at the end of Portugal's EU-IMF Troika programme in April, refusing to accept a backstop credit line. He brushed aside warnings from the IMF, worried about debt redemptions over the next two years. He insisted that the country is safely out of the woods, able to borrow cheaply from the markets without having to accept dictates from Brussels. This has been popular, but may go badly wrong if investors shun risky assets once again.
The country is already flirting with deflation. The economy stalled in the first quarter, contracting by 0.7pc. Portugal's public debt has jumped from 94pc to 129pc of GDP in three years, partly because of austerity itself. ''The debt outlook remains fragile. Debt dynamics remain highly vulnerable to macro-fiscal shocks,'' said the IMF.
Holger Schmieding, from Berenberg Bank, said the calm reaction is evidence that the eurozone now has a working structure for minor upsets. ''The systemic euro crisis is over. Although the eurozone still has issues, it has a well-oiled machine to deal with them. The vicious contagion risks, the hallmark of the euro crisis, can be kept at bay,'' he said.
Credit Agricole second quarter profit drops by 98pc
More Dutch students cannot afford to pay off student loans.
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 06:58
More students cannot afford to pay off student loansTuesday 05 August 2014
A growing number of graduates are unable to pay off their student loan because they are not earning enough.
According to DUO, which runs student finance for the education ministry, 11% of graduates had student debt in 2008. This rose to 15.6% in 2013.
Last year, 93,000 graduates needed a loan deferment, with 36,600 of them not paying off the monthly instalment on their loan and 56,400 paying less than the due amount, DUO says.
'It does mean there is less money going into the treasury,' a DUO spokesman told broadcaster Nos. 'But it is likely to be temporary, until the economy improves.'
Graduates should begin paying back student loans from the second year after graduation. But a low income means a graduate can be put into special measures. After 15 years, the rest of the student loan is scrapped, no matter how much has been paid off.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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Obama Nation
State Department hires testimony coach to prepare for congressional grillings - Washington Times
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:18
After suffering through a striking number of rough grillings at the hands of Congress, State Department officials have approved a contract worth up to $545,000 to help train themselves for how to brief lawmakers and to testify at hearings.
The contract with Orlando, Florida-based AMTIS, Inc. includes classes entitled ''Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying'' and pays for one-on-one sessions to hold a mock hearing with questioners playing the role of lawmakers asking hard questions of the would-be witnesses.
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Over the last two years, department officials have stumbled through hearings on their handling of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, been berated for failing to be able to lay out a new legal framework for the war on terror and seen one top campaign bundler for President Obama admit he'd never traveled to Argentina '-- the country he'd been nominated to serve in as U.S. ambassador.
State Department officials did not respond to questions about the contract by deadline on Thursday.
Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, said if officials were doing their jobs correctly, the money wouldn't be needed.
''All they have to do is sit there at a microphone, read their testimony and answer questions truthfully, honestly and thoroughly and explain to the American people what they're doing,'' Ms. Paige said.
''It's not 'The Charlie Rose Show'; it's not 'The View,''' she said. ''It is congressional testimony. So just cough up the facts, because that's all we really need from you.''
Documents show the contract also includes a separate ambassadorial seminar ''for building effective relationships with members of Congress and their staffers.''
SEE ALSO: 'No American is proud' of certain CIA tactics: State Department
The Communicating with Congress class is supposed to be taught by individuals with current or recent Capitol Hill experience.
And the simulated congressional hearings, which are to be recorded on video, have would-be witnesses deliver testimony before a panel of experts ''capable of appropriate questioning and criticism.''
The classes are held under the State Department's Foreign Service Institute. Other topics taught under the contract include ''tips for leveraging State's Bureau of Legislative Affairs,'' ''training and skill-building in briefing techniques'' and ''building effective relationships.''
Some of the State Department's own current employees could offer lessons on how to survive a tough hearing.
Back in February, the testimony of several ambassador appointees embarrassed the Obama administration, raising fresh questions about the long, bipartisan practice of key political donors and allies being rewarded with diplomatic posts.
Former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who was appointed ambassador to China, testified, ''I'm no real expert on China.''
Noah Bryson Mamet admitted that he never visited Argentina, though ''I've traveled pretty extensively around the world.''
Story Continues '†'
$619 billion missed from federal transparency site
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 02:51
The USASpending.gov web site.(Photo: Office of Management and Budget)
WASHINGTON '-- A government website intended to make federal spending more transparent was missing at least $619 billion from 302 federal programs, a government audit has found.
And the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on USASpending.gov is "fully consistent with agencies' records," according to the report.
Among the data missing from the 6-year-old federal website:
' The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs.
' The Department of the Interior did not report spending for 163 of its 265 assistance programs because, the department said, its accounting systems were not compatible with the data formats required by USASpending.gov. The result: $5.3 billion in spending missing from the website.
' The White House itself failed to report any of the programs it's directly responsible for. At the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is part of the White House, officials said they thought HHS was responsible for reporting their spending.
For more than 22% of federal awards, the spending website literally doesn't know where the money went. The "place of performance" of federal contracts was most likely to be wrong.
That's a problem, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
"We live in a world in which information drives decisions," Carper said. "And, given the budget constraints that our government faces, we need reliable information on how and where our money is being spent."
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, asks a question at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 18, 2013.(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)
The report comes as the Obama administration begins to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which Congress passed last year to expand the amount of federal spending data available to the public.
The report said the Office of Management and Budget needed to exercise greater oversight of federal agencies reporting spending data. "Until these weaknesses are addressed, any effort to use thedata will be hampered by uncertainties about accuracy," the report said.
OMB spokesman Jamal Brown said the administration is already working to improve the data following the passage of the DATA Act last year."OMB is committed to federal spending transparency and working with agencies to improve the completeness and accuracy of data submissions," he said in a statement.
The administration is also transferring responsibility for the website from the General Services Administration to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service in the Department of the Treasury.
Follow @gregorykorte on Twitter.
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1npdjlZ
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 06:42
All prime awardee data as reported by agencies. The assistance prime awardee data includes agency submissions as of 08/06/2014 and the contracts prime awardee data includes procurement data downloaded from FPDS as of 08/06/2014. Please note that availability of DOD contracts prime awardee data is delayed by 90 days to protect operations tempo. All Sub-awardee data is based on prime awardee submissions from FSRS, for sub-contracts as of 08/05/2014 and for sub-grants as of 08/05/2014. For more information about the data, data sources, and data timeliness, please see Learn.The quality procurement data is maintained by the federal agencies by annual verification and validation of their data in FPDS. For more information on how the quality is maintained and what the government is doing in ensuring the quality please see (PDF).
Snowden makes first public appearance, secretly visits Moscow's Bolshoi theatre
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 21:45
Published time: August 05, 2014 17:18Edited time: August 05, 2014 19:40Edward Snowden (AFP Photo / The Guardian)
The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has visited Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre in his first public appearance since coming to Russia a year ago. Reporters were hardly able to recognize the former CIA employee without his signature look glasses.
The NSA whistleblower apparently decided to mark a year of asylum in Russia by making a public appearance. He attended the Tsar's Bride opera in Moscow's historic Bolshoi Theatre.
Snowden slipped in almost unnoticed. He sat in one of the theatre's boxes, admiring Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's opera that recounts a tragic love story during the time of Ivan the Terrible's reign in Russia.
Snowden publically promised to study Russian culture when he was granted asylum in August last year.
In June 2013, the former NSA contractor landed in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in transit from Hong Kong, with Ecuador as his final destination.
After Snowden leaked sensitive US intelligence, Washington charged him with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person, canceling his passport upon arrival in Moscow. This led to the leaker getting stranded in the transit zone until Russia granted him temporary asylum.
His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RT that during the time Snowden was holed up in the airport he brought him books by prominent Russian authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, and the classic 12-volume History of the Russian state by 19th century historian Nikolay Karamzin - all of those books in English.
At the same time, according to Kucherena, Snowden promised to learn Russian. When Snowden was granted asylum, he was taken to an undisclosed ''safe place'' and has not been seen in public since. During this time he has made a few videos and appeared in teleconferences and interviews.
In August last year, Life news published a photo of a man it claimed was the first showing US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow. The image showed a casually-dressed man, with a goatee and glasses, pushing a supermarket trolley full of groceries across a road. However the photo was blurry and it was hard to establish the man's identity.
Snowden filed an official petition on July 9 to extend his asylum in Russia for another year. The whistleblower can stay in the country while his application is being processed. Currently, Snowden holds a three-year post as Rector of the University of Glasgow and serves on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board of directors.
Lawyer: Snowden can stay 3 more years in Russia
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:29
MOSCOW (AP) -- Former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the U.S. for leaking details about once-secret surveillance programs, has been granted permission to stay in Russia for three more years, his lawyer said Thursday.Snowden last year was granted temporary asylum of one year in Russia, but that expired on Aug. 1.His lawyer, Analtoly Kucherena, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Snowden now has been granted residency for three more years, but that he had not been granted political asylum.That status, which would allow him to stay in Russia permanently, must be decided by a separate procedure, Kucherena said, without specifying if Snowden is seeking it. He faces espionage charges in the U.S. that carry a sentence of up to 30 years, but Russia has no extradition treaty with Washington.Snowden was stranded in a Moscow airport last year en route from Hong Kong to Cuba, shortly after he released extensive documentation about National Security Agency's surveillance programs. He reportedly spent a month in the airport before receiving the temporary asylum, but was seen only at one tightly restricted meeting with human rights representatives.Since receiving the temporary asylum, his whereabouts have not been made public.The case has been a significant contributor to the tensions between Russia and the U.S."I don't think there's ever been any question that I'd like to go home," Snowden said in a television interview in May. "Now, whether amnesty or clemency ever becomes a possibility is not for me to say. That's a debate for the public and the government to decide. But, if I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home."Kucherena said Snowden is working in the information-technology field and that holding a job was a key consideration in extending his residency. The lawyer didn't give details of where Snowden is working. He also said Snowden is under the protection of a private guard service.Kucherena also was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that he intends to publish a novel that includes elements of the Snowden case. He claimed rights to the book have been sold to American film director Oliver Stone.
Spy Agency Stole Scoop From Media Outlet And Handed It To The AP
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 21:42
WASHINGTON -- The Associated Press dropped a significant scoop on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that in the last several years the U.S. government's terrorism watch list has doubled.
A few minutes after the AP story, then consisting of three paragraphs, was posted at 12:32 p.m., The Intercept published a much more comprehensive article. The original article, which has since been updated and expanded, appears below:
The government, it turned out, had "spoiled the scoop," an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday's AP story was much friendlier to the government's position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.
The practice of spoiling a scoop is frowned upon because it destroys trust between the journalist and the subject. In the future, the journalist is much less willing to share the contents of his or her reporting with that subject, which means the subject is given less time, or no time at all, to respond with concerns about the reporting.
The government's decision to spoil a story on the topic of national security is especially unusual, given that it has a significant interest in earning the trust of national security reporters so that it can make its case that certain information should remain private.
After the AP story ran, The Intercept requested a conference call with the National Counterterrorism Center. A source with knowledge of the call said that the government agency admitted having fed the story to the AP, but didn't think the reporter would publish before The Intercept did. "That was our bad," the official said.
Asked by The Intercept editor John Cook if it was the government's policy to feed one outlet's scoop to a friendlier outlet, a silence ensued, followed by the explanation: ''We had invested some quality time with Eileen," referring to AP reporter Eileen Sullivan, who the official added had been out to visit the NCTC.
"After seeing you had the docs, and the fact we had been working with Eileen, we did feel compelled to give her a heads up," the official said, according to the source. "We thought she would publish after you."
According to the source, Cook told the official that in the future the agency would have only 30 minutes to respond to questions before publication.
"They also were saying, with most news organizations we'd have a real back-and-forth and we'd have an opportunity to discuss what should be redacted, but with you guys, you've made it clear you're not going to have those kinds of conversations with us," the source said.
Cook did not return requests for comment.
AP spokesman Paul Colford responded to questions about the timing of the stories in a statement to The Huffington Post: "Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter Eileen Sullivan has been covering this territory for a long time. She gathered and reported additional news today as part of her expertise on this subject."
Sullivan shared in a Pulitzer for exposing the NYPD's surveillance of the city's Muslim community, and was among the AP reporters to have her phone records seized by the government.
An NCTC spokesperson told HuffPost, "Last year NCTC published the size of the TIDE [Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment] database as a matter of transparency, and was in the process of doing so again this year. As such, we had been working with the AP for several months on a story about watchlisting and TIDE when First Look Media [publisher of The Intercept] approached us with a similar story. Because both the AP and First Look Media were working on a similar story, both news organizations should have been provided the same information simultaneously, which did not happen, and which was our mistake."
The difference in tone between the AP and Intercept stories is clear.
The AP story:
The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, is a huge, classified database of people known to be terrorists, those who are suspected of having ties to terrorism, and in some cases those who are related to or are associates of known or suspected terrorists. It feeds to smaller lists that restrict people's abilities to travel on commercial airlines to or within the U.S.
The government does not need evidence that links someone to terrorism in order for the person to be included in the database. This is among the reasons the database and subsequent terror watch lists have been criticized by privacy advocates. Of the 1.1 million people in the database, 25,000 are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, the National Counterterrorism Center said.
The database's growth is a result of the government's response to a failed attempt to blow up a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. The terror operative's name was included in the database before the attack, but it was not on a list that would have prevented him from getting on a U.S.-bound airplane. Since then, the government has lowered the standards for placing someone on the no-fly list and intelligence agencies have become more diligent about submitting names to the TIDE database.
The database was created after the 9/11 terror attacks when it became clear that the government's terror watch list was ineffective.
The Intercept story:
Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government's widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.
Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government's Terrorist Screening Database -- a watchlist of "known or suspected terrorists" that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments -- more than 40 percent are described by the government as having "no recognized terrorist group affiliation." That category -- 280,000 people -- dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.
The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000 -- surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.
"If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism," says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent. The watchlisting system, he adds, is "revving out of control."
This article has been expanded with statements from the NCTC and AP, excerpts from the AP and Intercept stories, and background on Sullivan.
Michael Calderone contributed reporting.
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Glenn Greenwald Won't Say Whether He Has A New Snowden
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 21:45
Aug. 5, 2014, 4:50 PM1,596REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Glenn Greenwald attends the George Polk Awards in New York, April 11, 2014.
Glenn Greenwald won't answer questions about a CNN report released Tuesday that said officials believe he has a new source inside a government intelligence agency leaking to him after his journalism startup, The Intercept, published a story detailing the composition of the U.S. terrorism watch list.
"Can't comment on that CNN claim," Greenwald wrote in an email to Business Insider.
Though he isn't saying whether he has a new leaker, Greenwald did say he plans to publish more information based on documents given to him by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
"There are definitely still more stories based on Snowden documents coming," wrote Greenwald.
While a reporter at the Guardian, Greenwald was among the first to publish stories detailing NSA surveillance programs based on material leaked by Snowden last year. Those stories made international headlines, spurred reforms at the NSA, and earned Greenwald a Pulitzer Prize. He teamed with Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar to launch The Intercept in February.
SpaceX Says ''Headcount Reduction'' Due To Annual Reviews, Not Layoffs | SpaceNews.com
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:25
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. Credit: Atlantic Council photo
SAN JOSE, Calif. '-- The loss of up to 200 jobs at Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is due to firing of ''low performer'' employees as part of its annual review process, and not layoffs, the company's president said July 26.
''We did our annual performance review, there were some low performers, and we terminated them,'' SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said after an appearance on a panel at the NewSpace 2014 conference in San Jose, California. She said she didn't know how many employees were fired, but noted that in past performance reviews the figure was around 3 percent of the company's workforce.
''There was an annual review cycle completed recently, along with some rebalancing of resources,'' a company spokesman said in a July 25 statement. ''Our resulting headcount reduction was less than 5%.''
According to the SpaceX website, the company has more than 3,000 employees, and in presentations in recent months company officials said SpaceX had close to 4,000 employees. That would put the total number of employees terminated as high as about 200.
A lack of legal filings would support SpaceX's assertion that the firings were not layoffs. In California, where Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices must be issued 60 days in advance of any layoffs of 50 or more employees, the company had not filed such a notice through July 14, according to the state of California's Economic Development Department website. In Texas, where SpaceX has test facilities, the company had also not filed a WARN notice with the Texas Workforce Commission as of July 23, according to its website. Companies are not required to file WARN notices when they terminate employees for cause.
SpaceX said it ''expects to see net positive employee growth in 2014 of approximately 20 percent'' despite the recent terminations. As of July 29, the company had more than 350 open positions listed on its website.
SpaceX Sued for Laying Off 400 Workers Without Proper Notice or Wages
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:23
On Monday former employees of SpaceX, Elon Musk's own private NASA, filed a proposed class action lawsuit. The complaint alleges that SpaceX "ordered the mass layoffs of between 200 and 400 workers" in late July without properly notifying them or paying the wages they were owed.
Law360 reports:
"Plaintiffs and other similarly situated employees also seek recovery of waiting time penalties as a result of defendants' failure to pay employees all wages due and owing at the time of their termination," the complaint says.
The plaintiffs allege that SpaceX's decision was "willful," according to the legal news site:
Among the fired workers were plaintiffs Bobby R. Lee and Bron Gatling, who worked as structural technicians in the company's Hawthorne facility. They claimed SpaceX's failure to pay the fired employees all wages earned before termination in accordance with the California Labor Code was willful.
SpaceX is based in Hawthorne, California, where those named plaintiffs worked. The company was recently offered $15 million in incentives to build a new launch facility in Texas. I have reached out to SpaceX and will update the post if I hear back.
To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.
[Image via Getty]
AC in 'console wars' book mention
Hi Adam, not sure if you were aware - but you are in the book "Console Wars" (which is about the Sega versus Nintendo "battle" of the late 80's/early 90's). They are making it into a movie. Perhaps you can play yourself.
Here's the relevant part:
“What the heck was wrong with Sega of Japan?
Seriously, what was it about those guys? Was it that they compulsively marched to the beat of their own drum? Or, like a petulant child, did they just like banging on drums and then smiling at the cacophony? There was something going on there, something ominously bizarre, but Tom Kalinske couldn’t put his finger on it, and right now he didn’t have the time to sleuth around and solve the mystery. It was November 24, 1992, Sonic 2sday had finally arrived, and like Santa Claus on Christmas, he needed to stay jolly in order to bring good around the world. And there was no better place to spread this message of joy than from the place that most resembled Santa’s workshop south of the North Pole: the mammoth Toys “R” Us in the heart of New York City’s bustling Herald Square.
Sega had taken over the back corner of Toys “R” Us to host what looked and felt like a political rally for Sonic The Hedgehog. Sonic himself was there to greet incoming fans, friends, and journalists, as was his huggable new sidekick Tails, on hand to complement but never “overshadow the hedgehog. Both characters patrolled the perimeter of this rally, ushering guests toward a small stage where MTV’s Adam Curry emceed the event. Standing behind a podium with a Hollywood-worthy poster for Sonic 2, and in front of a thirty-foot “2 Fast! 2 Cool! 2 Day!” banner, Curry revved up the crowd for this groundbreaking occasion. After building up momentum for Generation X’s first unofficial holiday, he welcomed Sega’s non-hedgehog man of the hour. “And now to tell you more about all the exciting details is Sega of America’s president and CEO, Tom Kalinske!”
As Kalinske walked onto the stage, the applause finally drove out of his mind any further musings about Sega of Japan. “Thanks, Adam,” Kalinske said, taking his place. “This is a very exciting day for all of us at Sega. Today we celebrate the official launch of Sonic The Hedgehog 2.”
Wonder if you're a victim of the "billion password" breach? Pay $120 to find out
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:11
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I've been chased all day by the media, wanting to get my view on the New York Timesstory claiming that a Russian gang has been found sitting on a mountain of over one billion stolen usernames and passwords.
To give them credit, Hold Security did well to secure such a high profile piece in the NYT, perfectly timed with the security conferences going on in Las Vegas right now, and I am sure owner Alex Holden was pleased by the first round of follow-up coverage from mainstream media like the BBC.
But, frankly, I didn't want to initially talk about the story.
The reason for my uncharacteristic reticence to mouth off about a security breach? Well, there was an alarming lack of information supplied by Hold Security in its official statement about the discovery and something just didn't ''feel right''.
And although I did end up reporting on the story myself on the We Live Security blog, something kept nagging in the back of my mind'...
At first, Hold Security said that it could not name sites that had been breached because of non-disclosure agreements.
However, it transpired that Hold Security was blatantly using its discovery of a mountain of stolen credentials as a brazen sales pitch for its new breach notification service. For as little as ''$120/year with a two-week money back guarantee'' you can be alerted if your site is discovered to have suffered an attack.
And that's before you even consider the bizarre approach that Hold Security is taking towards consumers whose details may have been included in the stash of stolen credentials.
You see, Hold Security is asking users to sign up for what it calls the ''Consumer Hold Identity Protection Service'' (CHIPS). Hold Security says that CHIPS is a subscription service, but if you sign up right now you'll get 30 days protection for free.
But hold your horses, because wait until you hear how it is supposed to work.
Hold Security wants you to give them your email address '' and if they find it in their database of stolen credentials, they will then ask you (are you ready?) to ''provide an encrypted versions of your passwords to compare it to the ones in our database, so that we can let you know exactly which of your passwords have been compromised''.
When I did a little digging around the Hold Security website, I found the form where you are supposed to do this:
It seems to me to be an utterly idiotic approach.
For one thing, what if the computer the user is typing on has keylogging malware in the background '' isn't it going to be trivial for malicious hackers to scoop up the victim's most sensitive passwords as they are entered on this web form?
Or what about the possibility of bad guys creating phoney versions of this webpage, specifically with the intention of nabbing users' passwords?
But most fundamentally, you should never encourage users to enter passwords for website X into an entirely different website, even if the intention is not to transmit them unencrypted to a third-party site. Isn't this the firm that just warned the world about a huge number of stolen credentials? And here it is coaxing users to behave in a way which is clearly unsafe.
Services like Troy Hunt's terrific haveibeenpwned.com give you an easy way to tell if your credentials might have been grabbed by identity thieves after high profile hacks and he never asks you for a single password. Furthermore, his service is entirely free with no subscription fees (although, to be honest, I think he could consider charging).
It's worth bearing in mind that even if you find Hold Security's handling of the announcement either tasteless, cack-handed or conceived by somebody with no marketing common-sense, it doesn't mean that its findings are not for real.
For instance, security blogger Brian Krebs, a highly respected member of the infosecurity community, was moved to post a blog which appears to support the notion that the stolen data accessed by Hold Security is genuine.
Krebs is also listed on Hold Security's website as a trusted advisor to the company.
The key thing, as I explain in my We Live Security blog post on the topic, is to ensure that whoever is building and maintaining your website is aware of threats like SQL injection, and is coding to protect against that and other commonly-found vulnerabilities.
And for users it's clear that the most important thing they can do is to break out of the dangerous habit of reusing the same passwords. You can't necessarily stop a website from being hacked and online criminals accessing your password, but you can limit how much damage they can do to you by ensuring that you are not using the same password anywhere else on the web.
If you find passwords a burden '' simply use password management software like LastPass, 1Password, and KeePass to make them both safer and easier to remember.
Tags: Hold Security, password, Privacy
About the author, Graham CluleyGraham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives presentations on the topic of computer security and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, Google Plus, App.net, or drop him an email.
BBC News - Google to prioritise secure websites
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:31
7 August 2014Last updated at 06:52 ET Google has said it will give preference to more secure websites in its search rankings from now on.
The search engine has been testing highlighting pages that have HTTPS encryption by default, and will now roll out across its algorithms.
"We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal," Google said.
The decision could encourage more sites to turn on encryption, which makes them less vulnerable to hacking.
Encryption is used to digitally scramble data as it passes between a user's device and an online service in order to prevent others eavesdropping on the information.
It is used by many, but not all, sites that show a little padlock and use a web address beginning HTTPS. The "S" stands for secure.
But for many firms across the web, adding encryption has to this point been an additional burden in terms of time and costs.
'Best interest' "Previously organisations have shied away from encryption due to cost concerns or fears of slowing website response times," said Jason Hart, of the data protection consultancy SafeNet.
"But there are now high-speed encryption technologies available that mean cost and speed need no longer be an issue.
"So there really is no excuse for any data to be transmitted or stored in plain text.
"Every company wants to rank favourably on Google, so it's in their best interest to ensure web pages are encrypted."
Google said that - for the time being - whether a site was encrypted or not would not be a crucial factor in how they ranked sites.
"For now it's only a very lightweight signal - affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content - while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS," Google's Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes said in the blog post.
"But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."
David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, has previously said the US needed to change its approach to intelligence to restore trust in the internet.
In 2011, Google introduced HTTPS by default on its popular Gmail service.
Yahoo moved all its users' data to secure servers in March 2014, and Facebook committed to secure browsing by default since July 2013.
The move of larger tech companies to encourage encryption comes after the leaks from Edward Snowden alleged that the National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ used various technologies to spy on citizens, which prompted a global debate about cyber-security and privacy.
JIBO Kickstarter
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 03:53
All JIBOs come with the JIBOAlive Toolkit. The JIBO Developer Edition comes with a full SDK. The Toolkit is great for getting JIBO to perform new tricks. If you are interested in developing new skills and content for the JIBO Store, then the SDK is for you.
Developer Early Access to JIBO and the JIBO StoreGet our very first manufacturing run of robots. You also get a head start on submitting apps to the JIBO Store, as the widely available SDK will not be released until early 2016. All content in the JIBO Store must be certified first.
JIBOAlive Developer SupportWith the purchase of the JIBO Developer Edition, you will be enrolled in the JIBO Developer Program and have direct access to support and advice from our team.
With the purchase of any JIBO, anyone can have access to the JIBOAlive Forum, where you will receive additional information, support, and updates from the JIBO community.
JIBOAlive ToolkitWeb-based JavaScript visual programming tool, animation-creation tool, and virtual simulatorLibrary of animations, sounds, vocalizationsText-to-speech (TTS) tool for JIBO's voiceJIBOAlive SDKEverything in the JIBOAlive Toolkit, plus:
JavaScript API access to JIBO's sensory systemsEclipse pluginSample source codeFor further information on the JIBOAlive SDK, visit our blog at blog.myjibo.com.
Hillary 2016
Kennedys pushing Warren to run against Hillary in 2016
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 16:00
In an echo of 2008 '-- when Ted and Caroline Kennedy backed upstart Barack Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton '-- members of the Kennedy clan have been quietly wooing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and encouraging her to throw her hat in the ring, sources tell me.
The question of whom to back in the 2016 presidential race has split the Kennedys down the middle. Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, and their eldest son, former US Rep. Joe Kennedy II, favor Warren '-- the darling of the party's left-wing base who now sits in Ted Kennedy's old seat '-- while Bobby Jr. and Max Kennedy remain loyal to Hillary Clinton.
Over the past several weeks, the Kennedys have tried to settle their family quarrel by inviting Clinton and Warren to their compound in Hyannis Port, where each woman has been put through a kind of audition for the role of party standard-bearer.
Clinton and Warren were feted on separate occasions at a catered buffet lunch under a large tent. In addition, Hillary and Bill Clinton were treated to a sail aboard the Kennedy schooner, the Maya.
Despite the death of the family patriarch, Ted, the Kennedys still consider themselves the torchbearers of the Democratic Party.
''A Kennedy endorsement matters,'' said a family member. ''It's not just the aura of being compared to JFK, Bobby and Ted. But it's also the use of the Hyannis Port compound and the JFK Library, which are magnets for fund-raisers.''
Some members of the Kennedy family see an opportunity to repeat the kingmaker role they played in 2008, when they helped the then-little known Illinois senator snatch the nomination away from front-runner Clinton.
The Kennedy courtship of Warren follows a story, first reported by me in this newspaper, that President Obama views the populist Warren, famous for her rants against big banks and the ''1 percent,'' as his ''Mini-Me.''
''A Kennedy endorsement matters'... It's not just the aura of being compared to JFK, Bobby and Ted. But it's also the use of the Hyannis Port compound and the JFK Library, which are magnets for fund-raisers.''
My sources say Obama authorized chief political adviser Valerie Jarrett to hold a series of secret meetings with Warren to encourage her to challenge Clinton.Though Warren has yet to make a commitment about 2016, she and her advisers have been secretly sounding out wealthy Democratic donors about a potential run.
What worries Hillary even more is that Bill Clinton's private polling shows Warren gaining on Hillary in precincts in key states.
''Bill and Hillary take the threat from Elizabeth Warren very seriously and are doing everything in their power to neutralize her,'' said a member of the Clintons' inner circle. ''In July, they cut short their vacation in the Hamptons and flew by private jet up to the Cape, where they had lunch with Bobby and his fianc(C)e, [actress] Cheryl Hines, Ethel, Joe, Rory, Max, Doug and Bobby Shriver and Chris Lawford.
''Bill was in full campaign mode,'' this source added. ''He made a point of talking to every member of the family, shook every hand, and remembered the names of everyone from the youngest to the oldest.
''Hillary was pretty reluctant about sailing on the Maya, but Bill told her that you can't visit the Kennedys and not go for a sail. The outing on the choppy waters of Nantucket Sound was pretty rough, and Hillary was a little green around the gills.''
A week after the Clintons left Hyannis Port, Joe Kennedy invited Warren to the family compound.
''Joe meant Liz's visit to be a countermove to Hillary's,'' said a Kennedy family member. ''He wanted to expose Liz to the family to gain their support. And, sure enough, she came to the compound breathing fire about the need to rein in corporate America.
''Joe thinks Hillary has too many ties with Wall Street,'' this source added. ''He loves Liz because she's a full-throated liberal like his Uncle Ted. She has Ted's voice '-- loud and angry and triumphant.''
Edward Klein is author of the No.'‰1 best seller ''Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas'' (Regnery).
Magic Number
NFL Rule Change
A rule change in the NFL this season. I'm not sure if this will carry over from pre-season to regular season. The extra point after touchdowns will be moved back from a 15 yard kick to... a 33 yard kick.
If you mention this please play my favorite "33 is the magic number" clip.
Shut Up Slave!
BBC News - Passport delays still prompting desperate calls, Welsh MPs say
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:59
11 July 2014Last updated at 17:23 ET The passport service has let people down and the UK government needs to solve the problem, one of its own MPs has said.
Monmouth MP David Davies said there has been a big jump in calls to his office from holidaymakers about to go away but have not received their passports.
He is one of a number of MPs in Wales who are experiencing similar issues.
It comes a month after a row broke out over delays to about 30,000 passport applications in the UK.
Home Secretary Theresa May denied at the time there was a crisis despite an "unprecedented" demand for passports earlier this year.
Hundreds of extra staff have been drafted in and new offices in Liverpool have been opened to tackle the backlog.
The cabinet minister later announced measures to allow the most urgent cases to be fast-tracked at no extra charge, after Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed there was a backlog.
On Tuesday Passport Office chief executive Paul Pugh told MPs that extra staff were being taken on and the number of applications classed as "work in progress" - around 500,000 - was falling.
'Anger and frustration'But several Welsh MPs said they were still getting fresh inquiries from people anxious about missing holidays or other long-awaited trips.
Conservative MP Mr Davies said his office had dealt with about 30 complaints in the last month and some callers had been in tears while others had become abusive to his staff.
"I can understand people's anger and frustration and their need to let off steam. I'd much rather it didn't happen, but we've still been able to help people despite it," he said.
"The Home Office has given us a hotline and we've managed by a wing and a prayer to sort out most problems, but they usually involve people rushing up to Liverpool in their car.
"The service has let people down and the government needs to sort it out."
CASE STUDYDafydd Baldwin's 15-year-old son Rhys is due to head to France on Tuesday on a volunteering trip but his passport has not arrived.
Rhys, from Pontypool, has done more than 500 hours of volunteering for St John Ambulance and Gwent Police.
His dad said: "We are in a state of limbo. Over the last 10 to 12 days we've been asking the passport office for an upgrade.
"Every time we call them, they've said they can request an upgrade a and we would be called back and now it's Friday."
Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, said he was still getting about five complaints a week but had been able to solve the problems by directly intervening.
"People don't know where their paperwork is being processed or where the actual passport is," he said.
'Awkward journey'One case involved a group of young air cadets from whose trip to Holland costing £600 each was in jeopardy because their teacher's passport had been delayed.
Mr Williams said she was having to travel to Peterborough on Friday morning - the day of departure - to collect it.
"For people in rural Wales it's a major problem to pick up a passport in person - they often face an awkward journey across the country," he said.
David Hanson, Labour's shadow immigration minister and MP for Delyn, was concerned that delays were costing people dear, with the number upgrading to the premium fast-track service jumping from six in January to more than 1,000 in May.
"People throughout Wales have worked hard to save up for their holidays and it's unacceptable that they are having to pay more for the same basic service and suffer heartache, stress and in some cases missing their holidays," he said.
A Home Office spokesperson said the Passport Office was dealing with the highest demand for passport in 12 years and had issued more than three-and-a-half million passports so far in 2014, while the majority of straightforward applications are being dealt with within three to four weeks.
The added: "It would not be right to divert resources to look at cases retrospectively - the critical point is to get applications in the system examined and delivered to customers on time."
YOUR EXPERIENCESRhian Jones from Barry said she booked to go on a two week holiday to Kenya in May and sent off a passport application for her two-year-old son eight weeks before they were due to depart. Despite contact with the passport office, the passport did not arrive on time and they could not go. She and her son made it to Kenya a week later after borrowing £73 for an upgrade, plus another £300 for new flights from her mum.
Debbie O is due to travel on 20 July but her new passport, which she applied for in May to change her name, has still not arrived. She says she has phoned the helpline "numerous times" for an upgrade and was told she would be called back but is still waiting.
Michael Speirs works as a teacher at a British school in Egypt. His son was born there and an application was made for his first passport in April. Mr Speirs' grandmother died last week and the family have flights booked for Sunday for his funeral but his son's passport has not arrived. They applied for an emergency travel document which, he says, was refused by the passport office and now they are stuck.
He said: "Theresa May announced in June that people in our situation would be issued with emergency travel documents for their children and we cannot understand why ours was refused."
'Not all speech is protected if [it] is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion' - The Washington Post
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:34
Fox News reports:
Satan worshippers are planning to stage a ''black mass'' next month in Oklahoma City, prompting outrage from the leader of the city's 120,000 Catholics, who also condemns municipal officials for allowing the event to be held in a public venue.
The event is being staged by the satanist group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu at the Oklahoma City Center Music Hall on Sept. 21. The group's leader is a registered sex offender.
Lawyers for Oklahoma City's municipal government say the occultists have a right to lease the public space under the First Amendment.
''I'm disappointed by their response,'' Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City told FoxNews.com Friday. ''If someone had come to them to rent the Civic Center to stage a burning of the Koran or to hold an event that was blatantly and clearly anti-Semitic, I think they might find a way to prevent it.
''Not all speech is protected if there is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion,'' he said. ''I don't believe it is a free speech matter.''
No, speech intended to ridicule or insult another religion is entirely constitutionally protected, as the Court has held since 1940. Under the First Amendment, people are free to criticize, ridicule, parody, and insult religious belief systems, no less than other belief systems '-- whether they are Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Satanism, atheism, capitalism, Communism, feminism, or fascism.
And this remains true even as to government-owned auditoriums that have been generally open for public rental. The government may not exclude speech from such places, whether they are called ''designated public fora'' or ''limited public fora,'' on the grounds that it's blasphemous or ''hateful'' or ''intended to ridicule another religion.'' (It's an open question whether the government may sometimes exclude all religious worship services from particular kinds of government property, but I'm unaware of any such across-the-board exclusion as to the Civic Center Music Hall, and indeed at least one church apparently regularly conducts services there.)
Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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Courts, U.N. shine spotlight on hate speech in Japan
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 22:19
Rarely in the history of Japan have public concerns over hate speech appeared so intense and widespread as today.
On July 8, the Osaka High Court upheld an unprecedented lower court ruling that denounced as ''racial discrimination'' the invective spewed by a group of right-wingers at Korean schoolchildren.
And on July 24, a United Nations human rights committee urged Japan to prohibit speech advocating ''racial superiority,'' an apparent reference to a series of anti-Korean rallies in ethnic Korean neighborhoods such as Shin-Okubo in Tokyo and Tsuruhashi in Osaka.
But the absence of comprehensive legislation against racial discrimination points to a limit on what Japanese courts can do to crack down on hatemongers, who in most cases are allowed to act with impunity.
We look into the Osaka High Court ruling and examine legislative hurdles facing the nation's efforts to cope with hate speech:
What was the ruling about?
A Kyoto-based Korean school filed a lawsuit against the far-right group Zaitokukai in 2010 seeking damages for a series of rallies it organized from 2009 to 2010 to vilify and threaten the students.
''Let Koreans be disposed of in an animal shelter'' and ''You stink of kimchi'' were among the epithets Zaitokukai members shouted through loud speakers outside the school. They later posted video footage of the demonstrations online for an untold number of people to watch, an act the Osaka High Court said would increase the likelihood that similar events will be held in the future.
The Kyoto District Court had clearly stated in October '-- for the first time ever '-- that the Zaitokukai rallies represented racial discrimination, as they rode roughshod over the principles of a U.N. antidiscrimination convention ratified by Japan in 1995. The Osaka court agreed, subjecting right-wingers to a damages payment of ¥12 million.
If Japan doesn't ban racial discrimination, why was Zaitokukai ordered to pay damages?
Unlike European nations, Japan doesn't have a law that bans racial discrimination, including hate speech. But it did become a member of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1995.
Both the Kyoto and Osaka courts decided that the message in Zaitokukai's rants constituted racial discrimination as defined by the U.N convention. The problem is that the treaty doesn't apply to conflicts between individuals, because it's a public law that governs relationships between the state and individuals.
So the courts penalized the anti-Korean protesters by means of other relevant laws. In this case, they declared Zaitokukai culpable for a range of torts, from obstructing the school's operations to defaming its reputation.
The Osaka High Court said hate speech by Zaitokukai members clearly belittled the convention's spirit and violated the nation's tort law to ''an unforgivable degree.'' The court concluded that by ordering the protesters to pay damages, it understood the convention's philosophy was taken into account in solving private conflicts.
Could a similar ruling be handed down regarding other rallies that have targeted the Korean community?
Not likely. The tort law would only be relevant if a specific individual is targeted. When it comes to rallies held in Korean neighborhoods, right-wingers' verbal abuses are hurled at such a far-flung audience '-- practically every Korean resident within earshot '-- that it's hard to narrow down potential victims to anyone in particular.
For the time being, no legal measure can be taken against rallies held in the streets, since Japan has refused to outlaw hate speech out of fear that doing so might undermine the right to freedom of expression.
During a news conference last month, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki decried the rise of racist speech as ''extremely embarrassing.'' But he nonetheless obfuscated his commitment to enacting an anti-discrimination law, citing a potential clash with freedom of expression.
The Osaka ruling, however, said derogatory language used by Zaitokukai went far beyond the realm of free speech.
How are these rallies being perceived globally?
Dismayed at the rise of anti-Korean demonstrations, the U.N. Human Rights Committee on July 24 urged the Japanese government to ''prohibit all propaganda advocating racial superiority or hatred,'' as well as to ''ensure that the alleged perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions.''
Megumi Komori, secretariat of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, said following the July 24 reprimand that she welcomed the unusually harsh warning from the U.N.
''The government has long maintained, in the face of inquiries from the U.N., that it doesn't think racial discrimination in Japan is serious enough to require legal prohibition. We believe the warnings directly challenged this assertion,'' said Komori, adding that it's time Japan took a step toward cracking down on hate speech.
How do other countries deal with people who engage in hate speech?
Most member countries of the U.N. anti-discrimination convention have moved to criminalize speech deemed aimed at arousing racial or religious hatred.
The United States ratified the convention in 1994. But it forwent an article of the treaty that requires its signatories to ''declare illegal and prohibit'' organizations that incite racial hatred. So did Japan. The two nations have thus stopped short of making hate speech illegal, both citing the need to protect free expression.
How should Japan deal with hate speech?
Although the government speaks about the importance of freedom of speech in defending its reluctance to outlaw hate speech, lawyer Seiji Toyofuku argues that, technically, there should be no conflict.
Toyofuku, one of the lawyers who fought against Zaitokukai in the lawsuit filed by the Korean school, said the Osaka High Court ruling states that the language used by the right-wing group clearly went beyond the realm of ''free speech.''
The U.N.'s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also says freedom of speech should not violate the ''rights or reputations of others.''
Toyofuku thus maintains that hate speech be criminalized but acknowledges that the road to anti-discrimination legislation is bound to face some practical hurdles.
''I do believe it's difficult for lawmakers to come up with clear definitions about what makes one's remark hate speech,'' he said.
For example, Toyofuku said, obvious curses such as ''Koreans, go hang yourselves!'' are easy to forbid. But that's not the case when it comes to comments verging on political statements, such as those asserting that the Takeshima islets, called Dokdo in Korea, belong to Japan.
''The bottom line is that whatever law might be enacted, it has to be crystal clear about (what constitutes hate speech),'' he said.
Ambiguous wording in legislation would confuse the public on what speech makes them a lawbreaker, Toyofuku said, and many would simply refrain from speaking out under such a situation, as was the case in Imperial Japan.
US government pushes for in-flight cell call ban
Thu, 07 Aug 2014 03:30
Although federal authorities say the practice is safe, cellphone calls from 30,000 feet may soon be prohibited for other reasons.
The Department of Transportation's general counsel said in a speech last week that the agency is moving for a ban on all in-flight calls, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people present. A DOT spokeswoman confirmed to the paper that the department is working on a "notice of proposed rulemaking" to be published in December.
The primary concerns, the Journal reported, are "disruptive effects of voice calls rather than texting or other data use."
Read MoreDebate on in-flight phone calls gets louder
The airline industry, however, is pushing to leave the decision in carriers' hands, as some might want to use their rules for competitive differentiation, the Journal reported.
The Federal Communications Commission proposed overturning safety regulations banning in-flight cell use in December.
VIDEO-BBC News - Turkey election: Who are the contenders?
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 06:22
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VIDE DOC-The Islamic State (Part 1) | VICE News
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 05:46
The Islamic State, a hardline Sunni jihadist group that formerly had ties to al Qaeda, has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group has announced their intention to reestablish the caliphate and declared their leader, the shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the caliph.
Flush with cash and US weapons seized during recent advances in Iraq, the Islamic State's expansion shows no sign of slowing down. In the first week of August alone, Islamic State fighters have taken over new areas in northern Iraq, encroaching on Kurdish territory and sending Christians and other minorities fleeing as reports of massacres emerged.
Elsewhere in territory it has held for some time, the Islamic State has gone about consolidating power and setting up a government dictated by Sharia law. While the world may not recognize the Islamic State, in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group is already in the process of building a functioning regime.
VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings. In part one, Dairieh heads to the frontline in Raqqa, where Islamic State fighters are laying siege to the Syrian Army's division 17 base.
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VIDEO-ISIS Beheads Christian children | MRCTV
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:36
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 04:17
VIDEO- For the Safety of All New Yorkers - YouTube
Sun, 10 Aug 2014 02:33
VIDEO-Protesters attacked on streets of D.C. by foreign security guards at Africa Summit | WJLA.com
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 22:15
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Protesters were attacked on the streets of D.C. after the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, ABC 7 News has learned.
Continue reading
Journalist among attack victimsIt happened Wednesday evening outside the Hay Adams Hotel, not far from the White House.
Witnesses said the attack began when members of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's security detail charged at the group made up of mostly Gambian exiles.
"We were here protesting, telling this guy he is nothing but a criminal" when the violence broke out, said protester Saul Mbenga of Jammeh - who was one was one of the summit contingent's longest-ruling leaders.
Three people were injured, including renowned journalist Fatou Camara, who is a well-known vocal critic of the Gambian regime.
Camara said she was kicked, stomped and beaten. She spent the night being treated at Sibley Memorial Hospital before flying home to Atlanta to recover.
Another assault victim, Ousainou Mbenga, said he was repeatedly hit with brass knuckles.
The Metropolitan Police Department said no arrests were made in the incident and it had no plans to file any charges.
Meantime, the Gambian security detail left the U.S. after the reported attack on a flight back to Senegal and apparently claimed to have diplomatic immunity.
It was possible the investigation into the attack could escalate to the federal level, however there was no definitive word from the U.S. State Department on Thursday as to whether it would take any action.
The Gambian skirmish followed a brawl on 14th Street that occurred Tuesday between supporters and opponents of Guinea's president, Alpha Cond(C). Punches were thrown and two people were arrested in that incident.
VIDEO- US fighter jets bomb ISIS artillery, 'Washington only interested in splitting Iraq' - YouTube
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 22:14
VIDEO- Weekly Address: American Operations in Iraq - YouTube
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 21:25
VIDEO-Senate hearing for new US ambassador to Ankara sparks 'authoritarianism' debate - AMERICAS
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 21:08
John Bass, who has been nominated by the Obama administration as new U.S. ambassador to Ankara, has said Turkey is "drifting in the direction" of authoritarianism, following persistent questions at a Senate hearing.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Bass to the position of ambassador to Turkey on July 15, along with the hearing on Jane Hartley to be ambassador to France; James Pettit to be ambassador to Moldova; and Brent Robert Hartley to be ambassador to Slovenia.
During his testimony, Bass read a written statement. ''I pledge to work with all of you to protect and advance our interests by promoting security, prosperity, democracy and human rights '' both in Turkey and in the many places beyond its borders where we work together,'' said the former ambassador to Georgia and a special assistant to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
''On this year's Remembrance Day, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan expressed his condolences to the grandchildren of those Armenians killed during World War I. That gesture and other positive efforts by the Turkish government in recent months indicate that the space for dialogue is opening. But more can be done, and we encourage both sides to pursue a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts surrounding the tragic events of 1915,'' he also told members of the committee.
Bass also touched on questions of Turkey's alleged authoritarianism. ''If confirmed, I will urge Turkey to live up to all universal democratic principles, enshrined in its own foundational documents and international commitments that undergird true national strength,'' he said.
He also referred to the ongoing hostage crisis in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. ''[The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ISIL's gains in Iraq pose significant dangers for regional and international security, as the group's seizure of Turkish citizens and diplomats demonstrates, we continue to urge their immediate release,'' he said, adding that the U.S. is "working with the Turkish government to mitigate the risk posed by violent extremists and foreign fighters exploiting Turkey's geography ... If confirmed, I will work closely with Turkey and other regional partners to stem the flow of fighters, money and expertise to and from Syria.''
Unlike former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone's confirmation hearing four years ago, no one at the question and answer session asked Bass about the 1915 event. Instead, senators focused more on the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq and asked Bass what his position would be in the event of an "independent Kurdistan," to which Bass replied that the U.S. and Turkey were ''working closely for the unity and stability of Iraq.''
When Senator John McCain started to ask questions, the hearing's mild tone suddenly changed, with McCain asking about allegations of authoritarianism about the governing style of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan.
''Are you concerned about Prime Minister Erdoğan's desire to change the Constitution and other actions that we have seen on the part of Erdoğan as a drift towards the authoritarianism?'' McCain asked.
''The prime minister is the leader of the democratically elected parliamentary democracy. We'll obviously look closely at whatever steps he takes,'' said Bass.
McCain replied by asking whether the Turkish government's ''suppression of social media, YouTube and Twitter and restrictions on the freedom of the media'' represented a drift toward the authoritarianism,'' adding that Bass was ''jeopardizing his nomination'' by not giving a clear answer to a question.
''It is a pretty simple straight forward question ... Do you believe that the oppression of social media, the desire to change the Constitution to be a more powerful president, which he obviously will be, is a drift towards authoritarianism?'' McCain asked.
When Bass again tried to refrain from giving an answer, McCain replied sharply. ''Mr. Chairman, I am not going to support this nomination, and I will hold it until I get a straight answer. I think it is a fairly straightforward question Mr. Bass. Is it a drift towards authoritarianism?'' he said.
''It is a drift in that direction, yes,'' Bass replied.
''Thank you. It took 3 minutes and 25 seconds,'' McCain said in response.
Ricciardone's tenure in Turkey ended this month, and Bass needs the Senate's approval to be appointed to the Turkey post.
Bass served as U.S. ambassador to Tbilisi from 2009 to 2012. He also led the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team from 2008-2009. From 2005 to 2008, he served as director of the State Department Operations Center. During his tenure there, Bass led the response to over 25 crises, including coordinating international assistance in response to Hurricane Katrina and orchestrating the largest U.S. government evacuation of American citizens in 60 years.
VIDEO-Obama: 'As if it was my decision' to withdraw troops from Iraq - Capitol Report - MarketWatch
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 20:18
August 9, 2014, 1:43 PM ET
In a Saturday morning address, before departing on a two-week vacation, President Barack Obama gave an update on the progress of air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq and the dropping of supplies to the starving Yazidi people.
He also took questions from reporters, and one response in particular drew attention. The president was asked whether he regretted withdrawing troops from the country given how swiftly the Islamic State group, alternately called ISIS and ISIL, has taken parts of the country.
''What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision,'' Obama said. ''Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government, and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn't be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.''
That ''as if this was my decision'' '-- representing a possible swipe at the Bush administration '-- was a jaw-dropping response to the admittedly small group of political reporters and conservative activists on Twitter who were following the address. While it's certainly the case that the Iraqi government didn't make it easy to sign a so-called status-of-forces agreement to keep U.S. troops there, Obama actively sought to withdraw troops '-- and, more to the point, he campaigned on it.
Obama also said it was a fantasy that arming moderate Syrian rebels would have made a difference in that country.
'' Steve Goldstein
VIDEO-Obama's Iraq airstrikes could actually help the Islamic State, not weaken it - The Washington Post
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 18:17
By Phyllis BennisAugust 8 at 7:00 PMPhyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Her books include Ending the Iraq War: A Primer.
Whatever else we've learned from more than 10 years of U.S. intervention in Iraq, it should be eminently clear that we can't defeat Islamist extremists with airstrikes.
Every bomb recruits more supporters. As the Pentagon-linked Rand Corp. noted last year, the 2003 American invasion of Iraq ''provided al Qaeda with a new front, a new recruiting poster, and a new destination for global jihadists.'' The Chatham House research organization in London reported that the war ''gave a boost to the al-Qaeda network's propaganda, recruitment and fundraising.''
Today's Islamic State fighters will likely see the same boost in morale and enrollment, even if some military targets are knocked out. Airstrikes won't stop the Islamic State from advancing in Iraq and Syria, even if the U.S. manages to protect people in the Kurdish area.
That's not to say we should do nothing.
The need for humanitarian assistance for Iraq's beleaguered Yazidi community is urgent. But the United Nations had already offered to provide the necessary technical support for a truly humanitarian airlift. When Iraqi President al-Maliki rejected the U.N. for no justifiable reason, President Obama should have pushed him to reconsider.
Instead, he immediately offered the U.S. Air Force. This will link any humanitarian efforts to military action, making it difficult for the U.S. to secure local and regional allies.
For most Iraqis, the U.S. is still known for sanctioning, invading and occupying Iraq. Across the region, returning to direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq, against the Islamic State or not, will be understood as part of the effort to shore up the discredited Maliki. Long supported by the U.S. despite his corruption and exclusion and repression of Sunnis, Maliki is widely blamed for the recent escalation of sectarianism originally imposed by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. So when the U.S. military returns to Iraq, in support of not only the Kurdish troops directly opposing the Islamic State but more importantly on the side of the hated Maliki government in Baghdad, it once again places the U.S. against what many Iraqis are hoping for '' an end to sectarian rule.
We should also not pretend that the U.S. is so great at mixing humanitarian airlifts and military airstrikes. When, in November 2001, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, desperate Afghans fled to the mountains to escape. They faced the cold with nothing, and the U.S. insisted on responding to their needs with an air drop '-- against the advice of experienced humanitarian organizations advocating old-fashioned, if less telegenic, truck and donkey convoys.
It was a disaster. The yellow-plastic-wrapped food packets the Pentagon dropped were indistinguishable from the yellow-wrapped cluster bombs they were dropping nearby. Children, rushing to grab what appeared to be food, were killed. At the Pentagon, Gen. Richard Myers said the U.S. had no intention of stopping the use of cluster bombs, and that changing their color ''obviously will take some time, because there are many in the pipeline.''
Dropping food and water isn't always the same as dropping bombs '' but when it's the U.S. Air Force, with cargo planes full of food and water accompanied by fighter jets and bombers, it's way too easy for one to segue right into the other.
President Obama himself called Iraq a ''dumb war.'' As he's said, there is no U.S. military solution in Iraq. So why is he authorizing U.S. actions that set us up to fail?
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VIDEO-Vacation Equality Project
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:04
We'll send the postcards.Sign the petition urging the president to support legislationguaranteeing all American workers paid vacation days. If we get100,000 signatures by August 15th, the White House staff will reviewit, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts and issue anofficial response.
Let's not forget the house.They're our elected representatives, and we'll need them to act.So we'll transform your digital signature on the petition into yoursignature on a real postcard and send it to your representative in the Houseon your behalf. Be sure to give your zip code when you sign so we know who to send it to.
Sign the petition
Sign the petition
SignaturesDaysHoursMinutesSecondsDone. What else can I do?
VIDEO-'Black box' did not work on doomed Algerian flight | euronews, world news
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:03
French investigators are revealing their initial findings on the Algerian plane crash in Mali.
Experts in Paris have been examining the two black box flight recorders retrieved from the wreckage of the plane.
The team has been unable to extract information from one, Remi Jouty, head of France's BEA air accident investigator, told reporters.
The voice recorder on the 18-year-old aircraft used analogue audio tape, a system replaced in more recent planes by digital technology.
The tape was broken or crumpled in places and had to be repaired, but the pilots' conversations were still incomprehensible.
''There is sound on the tape but it is unintelligible,'' said Jouty.
''The device seemed to be recording but we don't yet know why it did not work, except that this was not the result of the crash itself, he told a news conference, adding that first indications were that it was a ''simple technical problem.''
The strong concentration of debris in one spot on the ground leads experts to believe that the plane crashed upon impact rather than disintegrating in the air, Jouty said.
VIDEO-BBC News - Man killed as e-cigarette 'explodes', Merseyside fire service says
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:00
8 August 2014Last updated at 17:03 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
Fire service warnings about dangers of e-cigarette
A man was killed when a charging e-cigarette exploded and ignited oxygen equipment he is believed to have been using, Merseyside's fire service said.
David Thomson, 62, was found in the living room of a house in Penkett Road, Wallasey.
A small fire in the bedroom of the property had gone out before firefighters arrived, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) said.
The exact cause of death is yet to be established, with an inquest now due.
Mixing warningAn MFRS spokesman said: "The subsequent fire investigation identified that an e-cigarette that had been charging in the bedroom exploded, caught fire and ignited the oxygen tube of an oxygen concentrator, which may have been in use by the occupier."
Myles Platt, MFRS area manager said: "The investigation into the cause of this fire is continuing but at this stage it is thought that the charging device being used at the time may not have been the one supplied with the e-cigarette.
"We urge people to always use electrical equipment in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and guidance, always ensure that no electrical items are left charging overnight or left unattended for a long period when being charged, and do not mix parts from different e-cigarettes.
"Only use the original charger or electrical cables supplied and ensure you purchase electrical items from a reputable source."
Since January, nine fires involving e-cigarettes have been recorded on Merseyside.
Service representatives are speaking to people in the Wallasey area to give advice about the safe use of e-cigarettes following Tuesday's fire.
VIDEO-FPI Board Member William Kristol Discusses Iraq on MSNBC's Morning Joe | Foreign Policy Initiative
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 04:36
The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America's global economic competitiveness.Read More
VIDEO-Russia: Putin orders EU fruit and veg ban | euronews, world news
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:27
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned imports from countries imposing sanctions on Russia.
The measures will affect agricultural products and will last one year.
Putin ordered his government to come up with a specific list of goods to be banned, the Kremlin said.
Top of the list is poultry from the United States of America.
Russia already banned Polish fruit and vegetable imports into the country from August 1.
Now it is set to extend that ban to all fruits and all vegetables from all European Union member states.
Russia imports 42 percent of its food and that business is worth 12 billion euros a year.
Putin's order says the limits are being imposed ''with the goal of guaranteeing the security of the Russian Federation.''
Putin's move follows an agreement by European leaders to slap economic restrictions over Moscow's response to the Ukraine crisis.
VIDEO-Did the Creator of the Experimental Ebola Drug Joke About Culling 25% of the World's Population? | Liberty Blitzkrieg
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 03:20
Charles Arntzen is the Regents' Professor and Florence Ely Nelson Presidential Chair of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University. Dr. Arntzen is known as a pioneer in the development of edible plant-based vaccines, and he has also been a key collaborator on what appears to be a promising new Ebola drug.
The Washington Post recently reported that:
It took nearly three decades of tireless research and countless millions of U.S. government dollars to produce a few grams of the experimental Ebola drug that may have saved the lives of two U.S. missionaries stricken by the virus in West Africa.
And now some are asking this question: If the drug did help missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, whose conditions appear to be improving, could the same drug be given to the hundreds of people dying of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria?
What would it cost? What are the ethics of distributing a drug that had never been tested on humans in foreign countries '-- even if medical authorities could persuade people to take it? And how fast could it be done?
''Two months,'' said Charles J. Arntzen, a professor at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, who has collaborated for the past 15 years with Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the small San Diego company that produced the experimental serum given to the two Americans. ''Maybe they could do it in a month. If they were [already] planning on it, I'm sure they could produce 10,000 doses in a month.''
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was more cautious in an interview on CNN on Tuesday. ''It is not easy to make this serum,'' he said. ''The number of doses that are available right now, today .'‰.'‰. is less than a handful.
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Two months, or maybe even one month! Wow, this certainly seems like a miracle, right? The only problem is this guy is kind of creepy. In fact, he was apparently caught in 2012 joking about culling 25% of the world's population to solve the challenging problem of feeding 8 billion people.
It was all caught on video:
Quite the comedian.
In Liberty,Michael Krieger
Follow me on Twitter.
VIDEO-US Ebola outbreak 'possible' but likely not large: CDC chief - Yahoo News
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 02:56
Washington (AFP) - People with symptoms of Ebola will inevitably spread worldwide due to the nature of global airline travel, but any outbreak in the US is not likely to be large, health authorities say.
Already one man with dual US-Liberian citizenship has died from Ebola, after becoming sick on a plane from Monrovia to Lagos and exposing as many as seven other people in Nigeria.
More suspected cases of Ebola moving across borders via air travel are expected, as West Africa faces the largest outbreak of the hemorrhagic virus in history, said Tom Frieden, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus spreads by close contact with bodily fluids and has killed 932 people and infected more than 1,700 since March in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Liberia.
"It is certainly possible that we could have ill people in the US who develop Ebola after having been exposed elsewhere," Frieden told a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
"But we are confident that there will not be a large Ebola outbreak in the US."
View gallery
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden testifies before the Africa, Glob '...
Frieden also told lawmakers that people with symptoms of the disease would inevitably spread worldwide, and indeed numerous countries have already begun testing patients with fever and gastrointestinal distress who have recently traveled to West Africa.
"We are all connected and inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others who go from these three countries -- or from Lagos if it doesn't get it under control -- and are here with symptoms," Frieden said.
However, a CDC spokesman later clarified that Frieden was not saying the United States was bound to get Ebola cases.
"It is inevitable that people are going to show up with symptoms. It is possible that some of them are going to have Ebola," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner.
There is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola, but it can be contained if patients are swiftly isolated and adequate protective measures are used, Frieden said.
View gallery
Staff of the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse put on protective gear in the ELWA hospital in '...
Healthcare workers treating Ebola patients should wear goggles, face masks, gloves and protective gowns, according to CDC guidelines.
- Equipment lacking -
Ken Isaacs, vice president of program and government relations at the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse warned that the world is woefully ill-equipped to handle the spread of Ebola.
"It is clear that the disease is uncontained and it is out of control in West Africa," he told the hearing.
"The international response to the disease has been a failure."
View gallery
Protective gear including boots, gloves, masks and suits, dry after being used in a treatment room i '...
Samaritan's Purse arranged the medical evacuation of US doctor Kent Brantly and days later, missionary Nancy Writebol, from Monrovia to a sophisticated Atlanta hospital.
Both fell ill with Ebola while treating patients in the Liberian capital, and their health is now improving.
"One of the things that I recognized during the evacuation of our staff is that there is only one airplane in the world with one chamber to carry a level-four pathogenic disease victim," Isaacs said.
He also said personal protective gear is hard to find in Liberia, and warned of the particular danger of kissing the corpse farewell during funeral rites.
"In the hours after death with Ebola, that is when the body is most infectious because the body is loaded with the virus," he said.
View gallery
A man reads a newspaper featuring a front page story on the death of Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawye '...
"Everybody that touches the corpse is another infection."
- Traveler cases -
Ebola can cause fever, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding. It has been fatal in about 55 percent of cases during this outbreak.
Last month, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian finance ministry employee who was also a naturalized American citizen, brought the virus to Lagos.
Sawyer had traveled to Nigeria from Liberia via Togo's capital Lome, and was visibly sick upon arrival at the international airport in Lagos on July 20.
He died in quarantine on July 25.
As many as seven people who had close contact with Sawyer have fallen ill with Ebola, and one has died, Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said.
A Saudi Arabian man who had recently traveled to Sierra Leone and showed Ebola-like symptoms died Wednesday of a heart attack, but authorities in Riyadh did not reveal the results of Ebola tests.
A suspected New York patient tested negative on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Greece and Benin were also running tests on potential Ebola cases.
Ebola first emerged in 1976, and has killed more than 1,500 people since then. Within weeks, the death toll from this outbreak alone is expected to surpass that number.
HealthDisease & Medical ConditionsTom FriedenEbola outbreakLiberia
VIDEO- Zach Taylor Interview from the film; "Back to the Border" JFA - YouTube
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 02:16
VIDEO- President Obama Delivers a Statement on Iraq - Obama authorizes airstrikes ISIS Speech 8/7/2014 - YouTube
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 01:27
AUDIOPreventing HIV With Medicine Can Carry A Stigma | WLRH
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:33
In order to slow the spread of HIV, certain people who do not have the virus but are at riskshouldtake medicine to prevent becoming infected. That's the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, just recently, the World Health Organization.
The preventive treatment is known as PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis.
Eric McCulley made the decision to start PrEP. He's 40, gay and HIV-negative. Outside an Atlanta coffee shop, he pulls out a plastic baggy with a few blue pills.
"They're a decent size, actually," he says. "Some people might call them a horse pill."
The pill is called Truvada, a combination of two drugs used to treat HIV. Despite McCulley's negative HIV status, he's taken the pill daily for the past few months.
After hearing about the treatment and doing extensive research on his own, McCulley made an appointment with his primary care doctor earlier this year.
"He was very supportive about it. He encouraged me to do it," he says. "He gave me a lot of stuff to read, gave me a lot of stuff to think about, and told me I was a good candidate for it. So off we went."
So far, McCulley says, the only change the drug has made in his life is in his attitude.
"I have what I was looking for. I have peace of mind. I feel like I've taken responsibility for my health," he says.
But some PrEP users worry that not everybody in the medical community is up to speed. Although Truvada has been on the market for a decade, only recently have prescribing guidelines been available.
Dylan West is a 25-year-old Atlanta resident and works in international aid. He is also gay and recently found out firsthand that not every doctor is as familiar with PrEP as McCulley's is.
Some gastrointestinal problems recently landed West in the emergency department. He'd started PrEP after beginning a relationship with someone who's HIV-positive. One of the doctors in the emergency room noticed that West listed Truvada as a medication he regularly takes.
"She immediately, without asking any questions, just said, 'Well, we should probably test for gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/AIDS '-- the list,' " he says.
West thinks that physician made a "rash assumption" about his sexual practices because he was on Truvada. West knew stigma was something he might face. Some people within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have gone as far as to label those on PrEP as "Truvada whores."
"The assumption being, you're on Truvada, so you probably run around having sex with whoever you can," he explains.
Dr. Melanie Thompson says she's heard that before. She's the principal investigator of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, and has long worked in HIV research. She has encountered reluctance from some to prescribe PrEP because of lack of knowledge about it.
"This is an interesting thing to me," she says, "because doctors who say, 'I don't want to prescribe PrEP to somebody who might be at risk for HIV because they might not use condoms' '-- you know, it's an approach we wouldn't take in other areas of medicine."
Thompson says no doctor would refuse to prescribe cholesterol-lowering statins to patients because they're overweight. Somehow, the conversation around PrEP is different.
"So I think it's a very interesting moralistic attitude that soon will be outdated. But I do think that this is a barrier for some patients," Thompson says. "They feel stigmatized. And honestly, health care providers need to step up their game and do better than that."
A CDC spokeswoman said via e-mail that lack of awareness and knowledge among health care providers is one of the primary challenges to PrEP's success.
But both Thompson and CDC officials hope the new treatment guidelines will help overcome any barriers.
This story is part of a reporting partnership among NPR, WABE andKaiser Health News. Copyright 2014 WABE-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wabe.org/.
AUDIO-CDC: HPV Vaccine Rates for Teens 'Unacceptably Low': Forum | KQED Public Media for Northern CA
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:20
Mon, Aug 4, 2014 -- 9:00 AMMon, Aug 4, 2014 -- 9:00 AM
Download audio (MP3)Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A pediatrician gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A pediatrician gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl.
The majority of teenagers in the United States are immunized against diseases like tetanus and meningitis. So why is it that significantly fewer are being vaccinated for the cancer-causing human-papilloma virus? Last week the CDC released a study stating that less than half of American teens receive the vaccine, putting them at risk for HPV-associated illnesses like throat and cervical cancer. We'll talk to medical experts and health advocates about the latest research on HPV prevention.
Host: Judy Campbell
Pamela Tom, founder of HPVandme.orgPaul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of books including "Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All"Sophia Yen, teen and young adult health specialist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, and clinical assistant professor at Stanford School of MedicineMore info:
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VIDEO- Wolf Blitzer interviews Moshe Feiglin on his plan for Gaza - YouTube
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 23:15
VIDEO-Russia Sanctions Accelerate Risk to Dollar Dominance - Bloomberg
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 22:14
Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) ''- Bloomberg's Ryan Chilcote reports on Russian President Vladimir Putin prepping a retaliation against U.S. and E.U. Sanctions. He speaks to Jonathan Ferro on Bloomberg's Television's ''On The Move.'' (Source: Bloomberg)
U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia threaten to hasten a move away from the dollar that's been stirring since the global financial crisis.
One place the shift has become evident is Hong Kong, where dollar selling has led the central bank to buy more than $9.5 billion since July 1 to prevent its currency from rallying as the sanctions stoked speculation of an influx of Russian cash. OAO MegaFon, Russia's second-largest wireless operator, shifted some cash holdings into the city's dollar. Trading of the Chinese yuan versus the Russian ruble rose to the highest on July 31 since the end of 2010, according to the Moscow Exchange.
While no one's suggesting the dollar will lose its status as the main currency of business any time soon, its dominance is ebbing. The greenback's share of global reserves has already shrunk to under 61 percent from more than 72 percent in 2001. The drumbeat has only gotten louder since the financial crisis in 2008, an event that began in the U.S. when subprime-mortgage loans soured, and the largest emerging-market nations including Russia have vowed to conduct more business in their currencies.
Waging Financial War
''The crisis created a rethink of the dollar-denominated world that we live in,'' said Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist at Bank of America Corp.'s U.S. Trust, which oversees about $380 billion. ''This nasty turn between Russia and the West related to sanctions, that can be an accelerator toward a more multicurrency world.''
Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/BloombergAn employee counts U.S. 100 dollar notes and 500 ruble notes, right, at the counter of an OAO Sberbank currency exchange in Moscow. Close
An employee counts U.S. 100 dollar notes and 500 ruble notes, right, at the counter of... Read More
OpenPhotographer: Andrey Rudakov/BloombergAn employee counts U.S. 100 dollar notes and 500 ruble notes, right, at the counter of an OAO Sberbank currency exchange in Moscow.
Such a transformation may take as long as 25 years, with the dollar remaining ''top of the heap'' even as other currencies play a greater role, Quinlan said, speaking by phone on Aug. 4 from New York.
Weapons EmbargoThe U.S. and EU announced further restrictions on trade with Russia over its support of insurgents in Ukraine on July 29. The additional sanctions limit state-owned banks' access to European and U.S. capital markets. Europe also imposed an embargo on weapons sales while the U.S. added a shipbuilder to a list of blocked defense-technology entities.
A Snapshot of Ukraine's Past and Future
MegaFon, a Moscow-based company that hasn't been targeted by the sanctions, is moving funds into the Hong Kong dollar, Chief Financial Officer Gevork Vermishyan said in a phone interview last week. Billionaire Alisher Usmanov's wireless operator has traditionally kept its foreign cash in U.S. dollars and euros, according to the company.
Wealth ExitsOAO GMK Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel and palladium, is also keeping some of its cash in the Asian currency, two people with knowledge of the situation said last week, asking not to be identified because the information isn't public.
The nickel producer keeps its free cash-flow in a variety of currencies and instruments, spokesman Petr Likholitov said last week, declining to elaborate or comment on the use of Hong Kong dollars.
In addition, rich Russians are looking to move funds to banks in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, Danilo Lacmanovic, chief executive officer of Moscow-based Third Rome LLC, which manages $400 million on behalf of high net-worth individuals, said in a phone interview yesterday.
Dollar TrialsSince the U.S. currency replaced gold as the bedrock of the financial system after World War II, the greenback has weathered numerous crises. It emerged from the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, endured the introduction of the euro almost three decades later and maintained its status as a haven currency even when the 2008 collapse spread from Wall Street to economies around the world.
The Federal Reserve's unprecedented monetary stimulus to stem that crisis channeled cash into the economy through debt purchases, leading nations including Brazil and Germany to claim the U.S. was debasing its currency.
The crunch increased interest in tenders divorced from a single nation's strength, spurring the International Monetary Fund to boost almost 10-fold the allocation of special drawing rights, a reserve asset whose value is based on a basket of currencies, and fueling demand for so-called virtual currencies, such as bitcoin.
A $9 billion fine imposed on BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank, by U.S. regulators in June has also made some institutions wary of the penalties dealing in dollars can bring, according to Steven Englander, the head of Group of 10 currency strategy at Citigroup Inc. in New York.
BNP was banned from clearing certain dollar-denominated commodity trades for a year after the lender admitted to violating U.S. restrictions on doing business with Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
Geopolitical 'Baggage'''You used to think that you had to worry about the Fed and about the supply of dollars and the monetary policy reaction function, and now you have to worry about potentially sanctions and other kind of regulatory liabilities, so it's baggage,'' said Englander, speaking by phone on Aug. 4. ''If you see yourself on the receiving end in some geopolitical dispute with the U.S., holding liquid dollar assets is risky.''
The risk may be something institutions stomach in the near term. About 38.8 percent of global payments by value were denominated in the U.S. currency in January 2014, up from 29.7 percent in January 2012, according to data compiled by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. Use of the euro slipped from 44 percent to 33.5 percent of transactions over the same period.
Dollar WorldThe dollar's share of foreign-exchange transactions has also increased. Buying or selling the greenback against another currency accounted for 87 percent of all trades in April 2013, about two percentage points more than in 2010, according to a September report from the Bank for International Settlements.
Dollar pairs comprised about $705 billion of the $811 billion average daily volume seen by North American financial institutions this April, the Fed-sponsored Foreign Exchange Committee said last week.
''You can't escape the stratosphere,'' Sebastien Galy, a senior currency strategist at Societe Generale SA in New York, said Aug. 1. It's ''a broad dollar world which is dominating everything and the consequences are suffered when there's mismanagement of the system. But it's one that has no good alternative at this point in time.''
The U.S. currency climbed against all 16 major peers last month as fighting in Ukraine and the downing of a Malaysian jet over the country enhanced the appeal of haven assets. It extended gains today as NATO warned of a Russian incursion in Ukraine under the ''pretext'' of a humanitarian mission, pushing its advance to 2.5 percent against the euro since the start of last month. It traded at $1.3354 as of 11:50 a.m. in New York.
Citigroup forecasts a rally to $1.33 per euro by the end of the year, compared with a median forecast in a Bloomberg strategist survey of $1.32. SocGen predicts an advance to $1.32.
China ChallengeChina is making a push for greater use of its currency in international trade. The People's Bank of China extended a yuan swap line to Switzerland in July after agreeing a facility with the European Central Bank last year. The nation also agreed to allow companies to clear yuan-denominated transactions in London and Frankfurt for the first time.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority bought U.S. dollars in the foreign-exchange market this week to curb gains in the local dollar, which is pegged to the greenback, after purchasing $8.4 billion in July, the most since at least October 2012.
Sanctions show the potential for an increasing reliance on economic measures -- such as restricting the use of a currency - - as ''an alternative to military'' action, according to Marc Chandler, the chief currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York.
''This represents a big step in the evolution of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia,'' he said by phone on Aug. 4. ''The real challenge is converting that financial power into political influence.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Evans in New York at revans43@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dave Liedtka at dliedtka@bloomberg.net Kenneth Pringle
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VIDEO-Are Russia and Ukraine on the Brink of War?: Video - Bloomberg
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 22:01
It is usual to have geopolitical tensions especially with oil producer like russia and see oil prices fall.
The ukraine is what is driving this.
One would expect to see a list and oil prices.
An excuse to get out and this might as well be it?
We saw the worst week in two yours last week.
It does not stop because you get a little bounce on monday.
A lot of factors were driving some weakness.
I would expect to see, if this were really driven by problems in russia, a spike in oil.
We are not seeing that.
How much are they willing to do to prevent eastern ukraine from going entirely to vladimir putin and the ukraine in general?
There could be more sanctions against russia at this time.
The problem is the longer this is stretched out, and russia is trying to stretch it out, the eu is less likely to wage more sanctions on russia.
This is all because of natural gas.
In the winter months, that is when russia's leverage really rises against the you.
What is the move if vladimir putin takes over the ukraine?
This is a geopolitical shift.
You see this more than ukraine.
He will not just stop with the ukraine?
Everybody else's him between.
If you would listen to the news channels you would realize the u.s. is the cause of all the problems in the world.
Everyone has got their own's in.
That is one of the fears, that vladimir putin has got its own spin and he is not backing down.
A lot of european company -- countries are at risk.
To some degree.
Ukraine was formally part of the soviet union.
There are people who believe he wants to reassemble the best and most strategic portions of that.
People have been skeptical over that thesis but it looks like there may be an element of truth to that.
We are suffering from war fatigue in the u.s.. the u.s. population has no app -- no appetite.
There is no countervailing force except the eu.
The u.s. in some ways make a mistake by coming out and being so vocal against to begin with, if we are not really willing to back that up?
The u.s. is that -- is backing that up.
That is what russia sees.
It is not just about direct u.s. military convention.
Here we are invoking all these sanctions alongside europe and providing strategic military advice.
Let amir putin assembling more and more troops, 45,000 now, on the border.
The key is the ukrainian military, which has made significant gains in we -- in recent weeks.
That is what russia is reacting to, the possibility the ukrainian military could actually pull off dividing and fracturing the russian backed separatist movement.
Vladimir putin said today people should be prepared for a real humanitarian crisis in the ukraine.
Is that a threat?
Of course it is.
Killing civilian populations.
They're trying to create an impression of a humanitarian crisis.
To the point you brought up about those in europe not reacting, we have to look at the history about how the second and first world wars unraveled and how this emerged.
It is not the same, but it is similar.
I am from the ukraine.
So you consider yourself ukrainian and not russian.
This is still in the very initial stage.
Bear with me.
If in fact vladimir putin is successful in taking over the ukraine and he does not want to stop there, do the eu and the u.s. come much more involved question mark i am talking involvement that will be more military.
The biggest pressure bouygues are the billionaires he counts on.
Maybe he wants a different legacy than merely being the guy who took over crimea and brought it back to russia.
It looks like he wants more.
We will really have to see how this lays out.
One would have thought, the really substantial sanctions would have had a bite coming from the u.s. and the eu.
We do not know how much of that he will retaliate.
I want to thank lauren for
This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.
VIDEO-New leaker disclosing US secrets, government concludes - CNN.com
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 18:45
FIRST ON CNN: New documents formed the basis of story on news site, InterceptThe site is run by Glenn Greenwald, who published leaks by Edward SnowdenArticle focuses on the growth of names on terror databases during the Obama administration(CNN) -- The federal government has concluded there's a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN.
Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden's leaks.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden asks to extend Russia asylum
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
Sharing secrets: U.S. intelligence leaks
The New York Times reported in 2005 that in the months after the September 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush authorized the U.S. National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a court warrant on people in the United States, including American citizens, suspected of communicating with al Qaeda members overseas. The Bush administration staunchly defended the controversial surveillance program. Russ Tice, an NSA insider, came forward as one of the anonymous sources used by the Times. He said he was concerned about alleged abuses and a lack of oversight. Here, President Bush participates in a conversation about the Patriot Act in Buffalo, New York, in April 2004.Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
The Intercept article focuses on the growth in U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration.
The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden left the United States to avoid criminal charges.
Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter "it seems clear at this point" that there was another.
Government officials have been investigating to find out that identity.
In a February interview with CNN's Reliable Sources, Greenwald said: "I definitely think it's fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden's courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved."
He added, "I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden."
It's not yet clear how many documents the new leaker has shared and how much damage it may cause.
So far, the documents shared by the new leaker are labeled "Secret" and "NOFORN," which means it isn't to be shared with foreign government.
That's a lower level of classification than most of the documents leaked by Snowden.
Government officials say he stole 1.7 million classified documents, many of which were labeled "Top Secret," a higher classification for the government's most important secrets.
Big databases
The biggest database, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, now has 1 million names, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN.
That's boosted from half that many in the aftermath of the botched attempt by the so-called underwear bomber to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009.
The growth of TIDE, and other more specialized terrorist databases and watchlists, was a result of vulnerabilities exposed in the 2009 underwear plot, government officials said.
A year after Snowden
The underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, was not on government watchlists that would have prevented him from being allowed to fly to the United States.
In 2012, the National Counterterrorism Center reported that the TIDE database contained 875,000 names. There were about 500,000 in 2009 before the underwear bomb plot.
The Intercept first reported the new TIDE database numbers, along with details of other databases.
The Intercept article
As of November, 2013, there were 700,000 people listed in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), or the "Terrorist Watchlist, according to a U.S. official. Fewer than 1% are U.S. persons and fewer than 0.5% are U.S. citizens.
The list has grown somewhat since that time, but is nowhere near the 1.5 million figure cited in recent news reports. Current numbers for the TSDB cannot be released at this time.
The Intercept report said, citing the documents, that 40% on the "Terrorist Watchlist" aren't affiliated with terror groups.
U.S. officials familiar with the matter say the claim is incorrect based on a misreading of the documents.
Americans on lists
The report said that as of August, 2013, 5,000 Americans were on the TSD watchlist. Another 15,800 were on the wider TIDE list.
A smaller subset, 16,000 names, including 1,200 belonging to Americans, are listed as "selectees" who are subject to more intensive screening at airports and border crossings.
According to the Intercept, citing the documents, the cities with the most names on the list are: New York, Dearborn, Michigan; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago. Dearborn is home to one the nation's biggest concentrations of Arab and Muslim populations.
According to the documents cited by the Intercept, the government has also begun a new effort to collect information and biometric data on U.S. persons in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
The data includes photos from driver's licenses. That effort likely was spurred by the fact that FBI agents investigating the Boston bombings found existing databases lacking when they tried to match images of the two bombers isolated from surveillance video, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Stored on Pentagon system
Documents classified as "Secret" are stored on a Pentagon-operated computer system called SIPRNet, which the Defense and State departments use to share classified information.
A recent Government Accountability Office study found that between 2006-2011 there were 3.2 million approved by the Pentagon to handle secret, top secret, SCI (sensitive compartmented) information.
SIPRnet is one of the computer systems that the former Army soldier now known as Chelsea Manning accessed to leak hundreds of thousands documents, including State Department cables.
The Manning leak was the largest U.S. intelligence leak until Snowden.
Obama, Congress working on changes to NSA
Opinion: NSA and your phone records: What should Obama do?
Review board finds potential abuses in NSA phone, internet surveillance
VIDEO-NBC's Jansing on Obama Meeting African Leaders: Helps That 'He's from Kenya' | Mediaite
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:59
NBC White House Correspondent Chris Jansing appeared on MSNBC's The Reid Report today with a report on President Obama at the U.S.-African Leaders Summit. Unfortunately, there was just one tiny little problem with what she said: she accidentally said that the president's from Kenya.
In talking about the White House hopes for Africa becoming part of Obama's legacy, Jansing said, ''Yeah, the fact that he's from Kenya, and that fact that when he was elected there were expectations from the African continent that he would do great things for them.''
Ten minutes later, when Jansing was back on-air, she clarified that she had misspoken and meant to say Obama's father was from Kenya.
Watch Jansing's initial report, followed by her retraction minutes later, here, via MSNBC:
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'' ''
Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac
VIDEO-Egypt launches digging of second Suez canal | euronews, world news
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:57
Egypt's president has launched the digging of a new canal in the country which will will run in parallel to the Suez Canal.
The military-run project is seen as a major step by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stimulate his country's struggling economy.
He has been compared to army strongman President Gamal Abdel Nasser who nationalised the first Suez Canal.
The construction will cost 6.2 billion euros and is scheduled to take three years; Al-Sisi has ordered it to be completed in one.
The original 145 year-old historic Suez Canal is still the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
The Canal today earns Egypt about 3.7 billion euros a year and is a vital source of hard currency for a country that has suffered a slump in tourism and foreign investment since the 2011 uprising.
The project will reduce maximum waiting hours for ships to three hours from 11 and allow for 49 vessels to cross at the same time compared with 49 per day as now.
VIDEO-Chaldean Christian Leader: ISIS Is BEHEADING CHILDREN in Iraq (Video) | The Gateway Pundit
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:16
Mark Arabo, national spokesman for ''Ending Genocide in Iraq,'' spoke with CNN about the decimation of the Christian community by ISIS in Iraq.
''A Christian Holocaust is in our mist. We are actually calling this a Christian genocide'... Day by day, it is getting worse and worse. More children are being beheaded. Mothers are being raped and killed. Fathers are being hung. Right now, 300,000 Christians are fleeing Iraq and living in neighboring cities.''
ISIS captured the city of Sinjar, Iraq in fighting last weekend.Sinjar is located near the Syrian border on Mount Sinjar.
The Islamic terrorists immediately replaced the local crucifix with an Islamic flag.Islamic State flags lifted in Sinjar after the church crosses were broken off. (Translated)
The Gospel Herald reported, via Free Republic:
A prominent Christian leader of the Chaldean community unveiled the ''systematic beheading of children'' and other horrendous crimes committed by ISIS. He said that the Sunni extremists are committing genocide against Christians in Iraq and with the aim to instill the Sharia Law as the law of the land.
In the interview with CNN's Jonathan Mann, Chaldean-American businessman Mark Arabo said that the ''world hasn't seen an evil like this for generations.''
''There is a park in Mosul, where [ISIS] they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick and have them in the park,'' he explained. ''More children are getting beheaded, mothers are getting raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.''
Speaking from San Diego over Skype, Arabo called for the international community to offer asylum to the more than 300,000 Christians fleeing and living in neighboring cities.
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Travel : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
Sat, 09 Aug 2014 05:04
(Relaxnews) - An online petition calling for ''vacation equality'' in the US has shed light on the major differences in vacation time around the world and may make you want to move to France. Especially if you're an American, Canadian or Japanese worker.
Because while workers in Canada and Japan get 10 days of paid vacation time a year, that number falls to zero for Americans. Nada.
That's because paid time off for vacations and sick leave are determined by the employer. For one in four Americans -- or 28 million -- that means no paid holidays.
For comparison, French workers have 30 days of paid vacation time.
In fact, currently in France, most families are either sunning themselves in the South, splashing around on the beach, catching up on their sleep or traipsing around the world as the month of August is known as closing time, when the country enters shutdown mode.
Bakeries, restaurants and cafes close their doors for up to three weeks, office buildings are void of human life, and commuters -- the few, poor schmucks stuck in the office -- are more likely to find a seat on the eerily spacious metro.
While 30 days may be an ambitious target, online booking site Hotels.com has launched a petition that will ask the US government to bring ''vacation equality'' to the US -- described as the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee any paid vacation days.
The petition needs 100,000 signatures before it can be sent to Washington. The promotional strategy isn't entirely altruistic, as more vacation days would also boost hotel reservations for the online booking site.
According to statistics from a paper released last year by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, after France, workers in the UK get the second highest number of paid vacation days at 28, followed by Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, where workers are entitled to 25 days.
After factoring in the number of paid public holidays and paid vacation days, Austria and Portugal came out on top. In addition to 22 days of paid vacation, both countries also boast 13 paid holidays, for a total of 35 days.
The petition has also been launched in other markets around the world, including France, where the French are also invited to sign the petition in a show of solidarity with their American friends.
At the time of writing, the petition has gathered about 13,660 signatures. The campaign ends August 15.
Details can be found at http://1.usa.gov/1kwHl6Z.
euronews provides breaking news articles from AFPRelaxnews as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes.
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CNN-Hoshyar Zebari as IRAQI FM WTF.mp3
Howard Dean explains the 3 groups WOW.mp3
CNN- ISIS Beheads Christian children.mp3
Hoshyar Zebari now kurd spokeshole SHILL.mp3
Harf-are we at war with ISIS.mp3
Obama-5 scripted last question.mp3
Obama-4 explains how ISIL incentivises iraqis LOL.mp3
Obama-3 parrots biden on Incentive of sunnis-rubbleize!.mp3
Obama-2 MOST important timetable-PRIME MINISTER WTF.mp3
biden 3 part iraq 2006.mp3
Obama-1 broader Iraq support blah blah blah.mp3






NYC High-rise safety initiative.mp3


Egypt launches digging of second Suez canal.mp3

JCD Clips

albright truth teller.mp3
aspen 1 off the record.mp3
aspen 2 conde and madge ARCHIVE.mp3
chokehold story Democracy Now.mp3
economist Obama Quick Buck Vaklerie Jarrett.mp3
gates pm russia.mp3
trashing hillary in new book about secret service.mp3
walking bear.mp3


Console Wars - Adam.mp3

Obama Nation

$619 Billion is missing.mp3
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