US President Barack Obama, though widely expected to pursue direct action against Syrian ruler Bashar following the Houla atrocity, is preoccupied with what he regards as a greater threat to the world: a potential grab for the huge Syrian stock of chemical and biological weapons by Al Qaeda’s or other terrorist organizations. This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s Washington and intelligence sources.
The US president is trying to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept his new plan for the immediate assignment by the UN Security Council of 3,000 armed monitors to Syria to take charge of the six chemical and biological stores. Another 2,000 will join the team later.
To allay Putin’s suspicions of a trick to insert Western armed forces into Syria against Moscow’s will, Obama suggested that most of the monitors would be Russian or nationals of governments lining up with its support of the Assad regime.
Our sources learn that, in one of the conversations between the two presidents, Obama commented: “If only one barrel of anthrax reaches the hands of a Caucasian terrorist group, Russian will face its greatest terrorist threat in its history. Millions of Russians may perish.”
It was clear from this comment that Assad’s WMD are not stored as warheads, bombs or shells but kept in large barrels or kegs in six underground bunkers, holding Sarin (GB), Tabun (GA) and VX nerve gases, some four kinds of mustard gas and anthrax. The storage silos are spread out among Al Safir, the main Syrian missile base in the north; Cerin, a biological research center on the Mediterranean shore; military facilities at Hama and Homs; the Syrian naval base leased to the Russians at Latakia; and Palmyra, on the highway between Homs and Aleppo.
According to the information reaching US intelligence, three of these locations are situated in heavily embattled areas between the Syrian army and rebels, in addition to which, in the last two weeks, al Qaeda elements have penetrated the war-torn districts with a view to seizing some of the WMD stores.
Obama warned Putin that the jihadists have never been so close to getting hold of large quantities of such deadly unconventional weapons, especially now that the Syrian army’s 4th Division, commanded by Assad’s brother Maher, which guards those stores, is additionally assigned with suppressing the revolt and therefore inadequately manned for securing them.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
I must be the sick one here, because I think that may be the funniest group of words ever uttered by a woman denying her son's culpability in a crime.The mother of Rudy Eugene, who was shot and killed by a police officer as he chewed the face off a homeless man in Miami, says her son was "a nice kid" who could have been subdued with a Taser rather than gunfire.
"He was a good kid. He gave me a nice card on Mother’s Day. Everyone says he was a zombie. He was no zombie. That was my son,” the mother, who asked that her name not be revealed, told CNN affliate WFOR.
Government corruption abounds! And the mainstream media are complicit.
The call-in number is 646-915-9870. Callers welcome!
Listen to the June 1, 2012 edition of The Gathering Storm Radio Show, live or later, by CLICKING HERE.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
From The Other News:
(CNS). In speaking about Barack and Michelle Obama, their longtime pastor, the Rev. Jermiah Wright said, “Church is not their thing. It never was their thing.”President Obama and the first lady were married by Rev. Wright, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were baptized by the controversial pastor. As head of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill., Wright sometimes delivered sermons critical of U.S. foreign policy and asked whether God should bless or damn America. (Rev. Wright is now pastor emeritus of the church.)
The issue of the relationship between Rev. Wright and Barack Obama recently resurfaced because of a new Obama biograpny, The Amateur, by former New York Times Magazine Editor Edward Klein. He conducted a nearly three-hour interview with Rev. Wright for the book. The audio of that interview was released by Klein’s publicist.
During the interview, Rev. Wright talked about the first couple’s time in his church, and rejected the premise that they attended because Michelle Obama wanted to attend.“Well, people that go to church, the brides normally have their wedding at their church, which is why I think Michelle joined,” Wright told Klein. “Now that’s been my sneaking suspicion because she didn’t grow up in the church. Where have you heard or read about her family raising her in the church?”
Wright continued, “That’s my point. My point has been – and that’s it, I haven’t said this publicly to anybody -- that, like, you talk about Toni Morrison, or you talk about Maya Angelou, you talk about these black women, they grew up in a church, most of them. She didn’t. She grew up in a Hyde Park kind-of Jack and Jill, links, middle income, who think they’re middle-class, environment. She didn’t go to church.”
“And when she came to the church, both of them came to the church -- their kids weren’t raised in the church like you raise other kids in Sunday school,” Wright said. “No. Because church is not their thing, it never was their thing. We knew it wasn’t his but she was not the kind of black woman whose mamma made her go to church, made her go to Sunday school. … She wasn’t raised in that kind of environment, so the church was not an integral part of their lives.”Barack Obama and Michelle LaVaughn Robinson were married on Oct. 3, 1992 by Rev. Wright at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Their first daughter, Malia, was born in 1998; the second daughter, Natasha (Sasha), was born in 2001.
Newsweek continued: “Around the time Obama was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who would ‘gently poke me about my faith.’ As young marrieds, Barack and Michelle (who also didn't go to church regularly as a child) went to church fairly often -- two or three times a month. But after their first child, Malia, was born, they found making the effort more difficult.”
Though church was not their thing, according to Wright, the pastor believes that Barack Obama is a Christian. He recalled that when he met Obama, the future president communicated with him as a community organizer. Wright remembered that Obama asked him to help study Christianity.
“I think I convinced him that it was okay for him to make a choice in terms of who he believed Jesus is,” Wright said. “And I told him it was really okay and not a putdown of the Muslim part of his family or his Muslim friends.”
Hmmm.......Was President Obama Baptised or not ? Is he a Christian ? In another account of this event, Manya Brachear, writing in the Chicago Tribune, describes the event thusly: "When Obama sought his own church community, he felt increasingly at home at Trinity. Before leaving for Harvard Law School in 1988, he responded to one of Wright's altar calls and declared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In the interview, Obama said, “One of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.”Obama began attending the church in 1988 and formally joined Trinity in 1992. (But he left for Harvard in 1988?)
Newsweek continued: “Around the time Obama was baptized, he says he studied the Bible with gifted teachers who would ‘gently poke me about my faith.’
Madeline Brooks cites the research of a pastor, Usama Dakdok, who had called Obama’s church to ask about membership:
“Do I have to be baptized to join the church?” asked Pastor Dakdok. “No, you don’t,” was the answer. “You can be a member without being baptized.”
“And what exactly is required to become a member?”
The answer: “You attend two Sunday school classes in a row about membership, and then you walk the aisle.”.....Some 'Bible Study' with gifted teachers.
Nobody, except Obama knows if his conversion to Christianity is real or not. Although some reports and even Obama have referred to a "baptism", there doesn't appear to be any record of a baptism.Chicago-based journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin, when asked about Obama's baptism, wrote, "I have never been able to obtain any evidence that he was baptized, although I asked for those records."Read the full story here.
Closest Political Adviser Attended Obama's 'Kill List' Meetings
The New York Times reports that David Axelrod attends the highest-level national security meetings.
The New York Times has a very lengthy article today on President Barack Obama's war on terrorism policy. Obama himself, at his weekly "Terror Tuesday" meetings, "[insists] on approving every new name on an expanding 'kill list,' poring over terrorist suspects' biographies on what one official calls the macabre 'baseball cards' of an unconventional war," the Times reports.
But perhaps the oddest revelation in the news story is this: David Axelrod attended Obama's "Kill List" meetings. As the Times notes:
David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements.
"[A] successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements" is how the Times explains Axelrod's presence. So are we to believe that President Obama seeks success in killing terrorists off his list because it will help his political goals? Apparently so.
David Axelrod spent two years in the White House in his role as a senior political adviser--"the president's closest political adviser." He is now a senior campaign adviser, working out of Chicago and spending his days trying to get President Obama reelected, so presumably he does not still attend these "Terror Tuesday" sessions, though the Times article is not clear about this. But by all accounts he remains close to the president.
This revelation comes 4,000 words into the article, but it perhaps suggests more about the President Obama's "principles and will"--what the article is ostensibly about--than the other elements of the piece, which tries to explain how the liberal former law school teacher takes a nuanced approach to killing terrorists.
The Times reports:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.
These are the hard decisions Axelrod watched over.
Iran Threatens U.S. as New Cyber Super-Weapon Strikes
Posted by Ryan Mauro
Iran is threatening to attack U.S. bases in the region with its missiles if it is attacked, but the reality is that the regime is already under attack. The latest all-but-certain covert operation is the deployment of sophisticated malware that is being called “The Flame.” Its purpose appears to be the mass cultivation of intelligence and it is assessed to be 20 times more complex than Stuxnet, the original “cyber super-weapon” that ravaged Iran’s nuclear program.
The Flame has been discovered in seven Middle Eastern countries, though the number of infections found in Iran is more than the rest combined with 189 instances. There have been 98 infections detected in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Sudan was hit with 32 infections, a country whose regime is increasingly Islamist and friendly towards Hamas. There have been 30 infections found in Syria, 18 in Lebanon, 10 in Saudi Arabia and 5 in Egypt.
It is not believed at this time that the Flame targeted a specific industry or program like Stuxnet did. Instead, it is meant to act as the “the ultimate spy,” copying hard drive data, logging instant messages and other online communications, recording keystrokes, taking screenshots and even secretly turning on computer microphones to record nearby conversations. There is also the potential for sabotage because it can potentially delete information and change settings on computer systems, opening up doors for attack.
Some cyber experts think it was deployed in February or March 2010, while others think it has been active as far back as five years ago. It is unknown who authored the Flame, but suspicion immediately fell on Israel, possibly with U.S. assistance. Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs encouraged such suspicion during an interview, saying, “Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them.” He hinted at his country’s involvement, saying, “Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology. These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us.”
The latest known cyber attack on Iran happened in late April. Iran announced that its oil industry was being targeted by foreign hackers, specifically its Oil Ministry and its Kharg Island terminal where the majority of Iran’s oil is exported from. “Data related to some of the users have been compromised,” the Iranian regime said, though it denied that there was any serious damage.
In October 2011, “Duqu,” also called “Son of Stuxnet,” was found in Iran and it is believed to have been infecting computers since late 2010. The powerful weapon is similar to Flame in that it records keystrokes and could potentially hijack a computer and allow an outside country to operate it. Duqu, however, was not used for that purpose. It opened up back doors in systems for 36 days and then left. Symantec determined, “The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control facility.” Amazingly, those behind Duqu continued to improve it, enabling future infections even though it was already discovered.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is reacting to the failure to reach an agreement over its nuclear program during the meetings in Iraq on May 23 with bravado and threats. A Revolutionary Guards website said it would fire missiles at all “enemy bases” in the region if the country is attacked.
This isn’t a new threat. Iran has long threatened to respond to any military strike against it, by Israel or the U.S., with missile and “martyrdom” attacks on American military bases. In December, a regime-controlled website wrote a detailed assessment of U.S. bases in the Middle East and how they could be struck with missiles. The article specifically mentioned bases in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed. The author argued that the base in Bahrain is an extremely vulnerable target because Iran’s anti-ship missiles can hit American vessels shortly after they leave the base.
On November 15, a Basiji commander said at a convention that Iran could use proxies to attack U.S. forces in Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. The bases “are entirely surrounded by holy fighters of the Islamic ummah who are counting the minutes in anticipation of the command to wipe out the U.S.”
The next month, a regime-tied website carried an article that said that Hezbollah has determined targets for retaliation in the event of an attack and would launch “martyrdom operations” in each of the 112 countries where U.S. forces are based. The author used anti-war sentiment in the U.S. as proof of America’s weakness. “America needs to know that while American youth shout the slogan, ‘Stop the War,’ for fear of dying, the children of Ruhollah [Khomeini] never flee from war and always pray, ‘Allah, give us martyrdom for your sake.’”
The European Union’s oil embargo becomes officially enacted on July 1. Iran can ill-afford further losses to its economy and has threatened Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that are encouraging the embargo by increasing their oil output. On January 27, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts warned that Iran could intercept tankers departing Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for Europe.
The dispute with Iran is coming to a head. The West must hope for the success of the sanctions and covert operations like “The Flame.” Should they fail to halt Iran’s nuclear program, Israel will be left with the decision to strike or accept a nuclear-armed Iran. By all indications, Israel believes that final decision will have to be made this year.
Iran blames Israel for ongoing violence in Syria
Forces loyal to Assad killed at least 108 people and injured around 300, mostly women and children, on Friday in Houla in Homs province, according to the UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. The event marks one of the biggest massacres of the 14-month uprising against his rule. Syrian authorities have denied carrying out the attack, instead blaming it on "terrorists."
Mehmanparast touted the UN-Arab League Annan plan to end the bloodshed in Syria, calling it the only way to settle the ongoing crisis, but blamed Israel for deliberately sabotaging the plan. "We palpably feel the Zionist regime's hand in Syria's internal developments," Mehmanparast said, adding that "The Zionist regime's backers aspire to the failure of Annan's plan."
Hezbollah added its voice in condemnation of the recent developments in Houla, but refrained from assigning blame. The Lebanon-based Shi'ite terrorist group is a main ally of the Assad regime.
Auto Jobs: Sign of the Times
It should not come as a surprise with unemployment over 8% that good paying jobs in manufacturing are harder than ever to land.
At the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama more than 20,000 people have applied for one of the 877 job openings.
The surge of people applying may seem unusual, but it's not.
Take a look:
- Last summer Ford had more than 18,000 people apply for one of 1,800 jobs at the retooled Louisville plant. That plant will open and start building the Edge SUV in mid-June.
- In 2011, more than 41,000 applied for one of the 1,300 positions at the new Toyota plant in Tupelo, Mississippi.
- In 2009, more than 65,000 applied for one of the 2,700 jobs at the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Since opening, that plant has added shifts and is currently hiring another 820 workers.
There's no doubt the recession and the fact so many Americans are still out of work was the primary factor driving the waves of people applying for jobs at auto plants.
Another huge factor is the type of jobs being offered. Good pay and benefits with solid companies in an industry set for steady growth over the next 3-5 years. Those jobs are hard to find in blue-collar America.
UN observers in Syria find 13 bound corpses, many shot execution-style
BEIRUT – U.N. observers have discovered 13 bound corpses in eastern Syria, many of them apparently shot execution-style, the monitoring mission said Wednesday.
In wake of the recent violence, Syrian rebels have reportedly given President Bashar Assad a 48-hour ultimatum to abide by the peace plan proposed by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan or face consequences, Reuters reports.
"The joint leadership of the Free Army inside Syria announces that it is giving the regime a final 48 hour deadline to implement the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council," said rebel spokesman Colonel Qassim Saadeddine, according to Reuters. "It ends on Friday at 1200, then we are free from any commitment and we will defend and protect the civilians, their villages and their cities."
The announcement comes days after a massacre in Houla, in the central Homs province, which killed more than 100 people and prompted worldwide condemnation against Assad regime. The Syrian government denied its troops were behind the killings and blamed "armed terrorists."
The latest killings apparently happened in Deir el-Zour province. The corpses were found with their hands tied behind their backs, according to a statement by the U.N. mission. Some appeared to have been shot in the head from a short distance.
The head of the U.N. observer team, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, said he was "deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act."
The violence in Syria is spiraling out of control as an uprising against Assad that began in March 2011 has morphed into an armed insurgency.
In the wake of the Houla massacre, the United States and several other countries expelled Syrian diplomats to protest the killings. Survivors blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of the carnage in Houla.
The U.N.'s top human rights body planned to hold a special session Friday to address the massacre. Violence also continued elsewhere unabated. Syrian forces bombarded rebel-held areas in the same province where the Houla killings occurred, although no casualties were immediately reported, activists said.
Damascus had said it would conclude its own investigation into the Houla deaths by Wednesday but it was not clear if the findings would be made public.
Syria's state-run media on Wednesday denounced the diplomatic expulsions as "unprecedented hysteria."
The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria ordered top Syrian diplomats to leave on Tuesday.
Turkey, Syria's neighbor and a former close ally, joined the coordinated protest on Wednesday. Turkey has been among the most outspoken critics of the Assad regime. It closed its embassy in Damascus in March and withdrew the ambassador. Its consulate in Aleppo remains open.
The Foreign Ministry said it ordered the Syrian charge d'affaires and other diplomats at the Syrian embassy in Ankara to leave the country within 72 hours. The consulate in Istanbul will remain open for consular duties only.
The Foreign Ministry said it also reduced the number of its personnel in the consulate in Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said new unspecified sanctions might be imposed against Syria in the coming days. The world "cannot remain silent in the face of such a situation," he said.
Japan also ordered the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo to leave the country because of concerns about violence against civilians. Japan's foreign minister, Koichiro Genba, said his country was not, however, breaking off diplomatic ties with Syria.
The announcements came a day after the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria ordered top Syrian diplomats to leave.
Syria's ally, Russia, criticized the diplomatic moves.
"The banishment of Syrian ambassadors from the capitals of leading Western states seems to us to be a counterproductive step," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. He said the move closes "important channels" to influence Syria.
U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan met with Assad on Tuesday in Damascus to try to salvage what was left of his peace plan, which since being brokered six weeks ago has failed to stop any of the violence on the ground.
The Al-Baath daily, the mouthpiece of Assad's Baath Party, said Syria won't be intimidated by such "violent rhythms" and would remain standing in front of such "ugly, bloody and dramatic shows." It added that "Syria will not tremble as they think."
The government's Al-Thawra newspaper also blasted the Western decision, calling it an "escalation that aims to besiege Annan's plan and enflame a civil war."
Tensions have escalated as more information emerges about the May 25 killings in Houla.
The U.N.'s human rights office said most of the 108 victims were shot execution-style at close range, with fewer than 20 people cut down by regime shelling.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there are strong suspicions that pro-Assad fighters were responsible for some of the killings, casting doubt on allegations that "third elements" — or outside forces — were involved, although he did not rule it out.
Meanwhile, activists said Syrian troops shelled restive suburbs of Damascus and rebel-held areas in the central city of Homs on Wednesday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said at least five people were killed in the Damascus suburb of Douma. Both groups had no details about casualties in Homs, which is the provincial capital of the province that includes Houla.
Texas 'honor killing' suspect Yaser Said could be hiding in plain sight as NYC cabbie, private investigator says
By Perry Chiaramonte
The Egyptian-born cab driver suspected in the 2008 "honor killing" of his two daughters in Texas because they were dating non-Muslim boys may be working at his old trade in New York, according to a private investigator who has tracked him.
Yaser Said fled his Dallas-area home after allegedly shooting daughters Amina, 18, and Sarah Said, 17, on New Year’s Day in 2008 and is now on the FBI's list of most-wanted fugitives. Although he took his Egyptian passport and $9,000 when he bolted, Bill Warner, a private detective who has worked for Said's sister-in-law, believes he never made it out of the country. With family ties to New York and a large community of his countrymen to blend into, Warner says the odds are good the suspected killer is behind the wheel of a car for hire in the Big Apple.
“It’s all he knows and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s there working as a taxi driver,” Warner, who has worked on and off tracking Said, told FoxNews.com. “He could blend in at a metropolis like New York.”
Said’s brother, Yassein Said, lives just north of the city in Westchester County and the FBI notes Yaser Said's ties to the area on his wanted poster, saying he "may have fled to New York or Egypt." Warner, who is based in Sarasota, Fla., believes the money Said took would not have been enough to flee to his native Egypt and set up a new life.
“He was not financially solvent,” the investigator said, “He did not own the cab he drove. He didn’t have the financial strength to leave.”
“The brothers are really tight, so it’s likely they assisted him in some way,” Warner also said, citing that a few years ago he located a post office box in Westchester County under the names of Yaser Said and his brother.
New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates yellow cabs as well as livery cars, requires criminal background checks conducted by the state for anyone applying for a license, according to a commission spokesman. But Said could easily rent a licensed car under the table or simply use his own vehicle to pick up fares illicitly, according to Fernando Mateo, president of the New York State Foundation of Taxi Drivers.
"There are 10,000 illegal drivers in New York City," Mateo said. "It's as easy as getting in your car and driving to the airport or picking up illegal street hails."
Said allegedly shot his daughters on Jan. 1, 2008, after they ran away from home a week earlier, fearing that he would kill them for dating American boys. The girls' aunt, Gail Gartrell, claimed the murders were an “honor killing,” an act practiced outside of mainstream Islam where a family member can be killed for bringing “great dishonor” to the family.
The girls’ American-born mother, Patricia “Tissie” Owens-Said, had fled with them days earlier to Gartrell’s house in Kansas, also fearing her husband's wrath. The three were planning to move to Tulsa, but Owens-Said convinced them to go back to Texas first to put flowers on their grandmother’s grave.
Upon returning to the Irving area, the girls were coaxed into going with their father in his taxi for something to eat, but were instead taken to a remote area and shot multiple times.
New calls have emerged for Owens-Said’s arrest, with advocates claiming she helped lure the girls back to their father so he could kill them.
“There’s always been the theory that she tried to cover it up,” said Warner. “She was abused by Yaser. If she didn’t do what he asked, she would get beaten. It was a battered woman syndrome.”
FBI officials declined to comment on the case, saying only that the bureau is assisting in the search for Said. On its wanted poster, the FBI describes the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Said as wearing a mustache and dark sunglasses, both indoors and outside. He frequents Denny's and I-Hop restaurants and smokes Marlboro Light 100 cigarettes. He is believed to be either 50 or 55 years old, according to the FBI.
"Additionally, Said is known to carry a handgun in his taxi cab at all times," the poster warns. "It has also been reported that Said always carries a weapon with him, to include knives."
Calls to the police department in Irving, Texas, where the murders occurred, were not immediately returned.
More common in the Middle East, honor killing has been a controversial issue among Muslims living in Western nations. Many say that the act has nothing to do with Islam and is a holdover from tribal society.
The case of the Said sisters is not the first alleged incident of honor killing on American soil.
In 1989, 16-year-old Palestina Isa, of St. Louis, was murdered by her father Zein Isa, who was helped by her mother.
Zein Isa had grown angry that Palestina had taken a part-time job without his permission and had a boyfriend who was black, further angering the father. The parents were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Zein Isa died on death row due to complications from diabetes in 1997, while his wife's sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole.
More recently, Aasiya Zubar was beheaded by her husband, Muzzammil Hassan, in Buffalo, on Feb. 12, 2009, after she filed for divorce six days earlier. Hassan, who was CEO of Bridges TV, a Muslim-American television network, was sentenced to 25 years to life for second-degree murder.
Bruno (2009) likewise took us on a serious and boundary-pushing explorations. Cohen's over-the-top character was so over-the-top with gayness that gays looked bad. But the real target seemed to be the closed nature of the straight world and likely, thus, the movie-goers themselves. At one point he had his character make out with another man in an ultimate fighting cage. The audience anger and violence brutally exposed the intersection of masculinity and homophobia.
So it was with great eagerness that I saw The Dictator (2012). This time, Cohen had promised to put us face to face with Islam. And while our fear of terrorists and dictators, got full airing, the word "Islam" never appeared. Those we fear were easily liberated once their Dictator leader decided to implement democracy. It was like a neo-conservative dream where we simply remove a dictator and democracy flourishes. This film never discusses the advance of militant theocracy, it is whacky humor.
In the end, amazingly, PC preachiness goes overboard in this film. The Dictator falls in love with gender-neutral vegan feminist peace activist who works at an organic market. This ex-dictator was really a softy at heart. When he falls in love with her, he sees the errors of his ways and adopts her liberal agenda. When the Dictator liberates his nation, he reads an indictment of real dictatorship, that of America. He even uses the tired Occupy Wall Street rhetoric about the 1 percent oppressing the rest of us, in his tirade against American dictatorship. The film makes the impact of Islam on politics seem ephemeral, and instead indicts America.
To be sure, this very funny film sometimes leans near the cutting edge. In one scene the Dictator plays a video game in which he reenacts the slaughter of Israeli activists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. But this action just reflects the whims of a whacky individual tyrant. The also Jewish Charlie Chaplin warned the West about Hitler in The Great Dictator. With Chaplin we laughed at Hitler, but learned he killed Jews and that the Germans were a force to fear. Herein we have a lone loveable portrayal of a dictator with no connection to ideology, whose anti-Semitism is only a joke; thus it teaches that when we topple or convert individual silly dictators, all conflict will be resolved.
I expected more from Cohen both as a Jewish filmmaker and as previously interesting killer of sacred cows. We should take culture seriously. In its failure to do so, The Dictator earns culturist thumbs down.
John K. Press, Ph.D. is the author of Culturism: A Word, A Value, Our Future. www.culturism.us has more information.
One of the recipes for "lean" calls for using Arizona Iced Tea Co.watermelon fruit juice cocktail as the beverage of choice, and Skittles candy. the items found on Trayvon Martin's body the night he was shot by George Zimmerman.
The Conservative Treehouse has a lengthy post about the recreational drug, it's effects and side effects, and alleged screen captures of Trayvon Martin's social media sites discussing his fondness for the concoction.
Another interesting aspect to this is that Planned Parenthood publicly denied this practice earlier this year.
In late April, Planned Parenthood suspected that it was the subject of such a sting operation. At the time, the group called Live Action’s tactic a hoax and condemned sex-selection abortions.There's nothing quite like being "pro-choice" and "pro-feminist" while supporting the "choice" of a woman to exterminate a member of your gender. Then, of course, lying about it doesn't help either.
“Planned Parenthood does not offer sex determination services; our ultrasound services are limited to medical purposes,” Planned Parenthood education vice president Leslie Kantor and Carolyn Westhoff, a senior medical adviser for Planned Parenthood, wrote. ”Gender bias is contrary to everything our organization works for daily in communities across the country. Planned Parenthood opposes racism and sexism in all forms, and we work to advance equity and human rights in the delivery of health care.”
“Planned Parenthood condemns sex selection motivated by gender bias, and urges leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to these beliefs and practices, including addressing the social, legal, economic, and political conditions that promote gender bias and lead some to value one gender over the other,” the pair continued, asserting that stings such as Live Action’s are an attempt by “anti-choice” advocates to further “legislation that blocks access to basic reproductive health care, including birth control.”
And the government can report a drop in the unemployment rate.
Just in time for campaign season. . .
MSNBC/New York Times:
U.S. winds down longer unemployment benefits
Congress renewed extended aid, but phased in a reduction in the length
Hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Americans are receiving their final unemployment checks sooner than they expected, even though Congress renewed extended benefits until the end of the year.
The checks are stopping for the people who have the most difficulty finding work: the long-term unemployed. More than five million people have been out of work for longer than half a year. Federal benefit extensions, which supplemented state funds for payments up to 99 weeks, were intended to tide over the unemployed until the job market improved.
In February, when the program was set to expire, Congress renewed it, but also phased in a reduction of the number of weeks of extended aid and effectively made it more difficult for states to qualify for the maximum aid. Since then, the jobless in 23 states have lost up to five months’ worth of benefits.
Next month, an additional 70,000 people will lose benefits earlier than they presumed, bringing the number of people cut off prematurely this year to close to half a million, according to the National Employment Law Project. That estimate does not include people who simply exhausted the weeks of benefits they were entitled to.
Separate from the Congressional action, some states are making it harder to qualify for the first few months of benefits, which are covered by taxes on employers. Florida, where the jobless rate is 8.7 percent, has cut the number of weeks it will pay and changed its application procedures, with more than half of all applicants now being denied.
The federal extension of jobless benefits has been a contentious issue in Washington. Republicans worry that it prolongs joblessness and say it has not kept the unemployment rate down, while Democrats argue that those out of work have few alternatives and that the checks are one of the most effective forms of stimulus, since most of it is spent immediately.
After the most recent compromise reached in February, another renewal seems unlikely.
The expiration of benefits is one factor contributing to what many economists refer to as a “fiscal cliff,” or a drag on the economy at the end of this year when tax cuts and recession-related spending measures will all come to an end unless Congress acts. The Congressional Budget Office warned last week that the combination could contribute to another recession next year.
Candace Falkner, 50, got her last unemployment check in mid-May, when extended benefits were curtailed in eight states. Since then she has applied for food stamps and begun a commission-only, door-to-door sales job. Since losing her job two years ago, Ms. Falkner said, she has earned a master’s degree in psychology and applied for work at numerous social service agencies as well as places like Walmart, but no offers came.
Ms. Falkner, who lives on the outskirts of Chicago, said she was grateful for the checks she received. But when they ended, she said, “They should have had some program in place to funnel those people back into the job market. Not to just leave them out there cold, saying, ‘The job market has improved, but there’s still 60,000 people in the city who can’t find one.’ ”
Unemployment is lower than it was when the emergency unemployment extensions were ramped up in November 2009. Now, it is 8.1 percent, down from 9.9 percent then. But it is still far higher than pre-recession norms, and there are more than three job seekers for every opening.
Proponents of extended benefits say the cuts are premature. Chad Stone, the chief economist at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Congress had never before put the brakes on extended benefits when the labor market was so weak. “It’s moving in the wrong direction, and it’s occurring at a time when unemployment is very high,” he said.
Conservative economists and political leaders have argued that unemployment benefits prolong joblessness and simply transfer wealth from one area of the economy to another without contributing to growth.
Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said, “I haven’t liked the 99-week solution from the beginning because it creates an environment where people are subsidized to become a structural unemployment problem.”
Still, he is troubled by the latest developments. “If you just reduce the weeks of unemployment for people already unemployed but don’t do anything else, it’s a bad deal,” he said, “because they’re already about the worst-off people in society.”
He points to alternatives like using unemployment money to encourage entrepreneurship or paying benefits in a lump sum, rather than over time, to encourage people to find work faster.
Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, plus the federal extensions that kicked in after the financial crash.
The number of extra weeks available by state is determined by several factors, including the state’s unemployment rate and whether it is higher than three years earlier. So states like California have had benefits cut even though the unemployment rate there is still almost 11 percent.
“Benefits have ended not because economic conditions have improved, but because they have not significantly deteriorated in the past three years,” Hannah Shaw, a researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in a blog post. In May, an estimated 95,000 people lost benefits in California.
After the recession, 99 weeks became a symbol of the plight of the jobless, with those who exhausted their benefits calling themselves “99 weekers” or “99ers.” But by the end of September, the extended benefits will end in the last three states providing 99 weeks of assistance — Nevada, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Some states have tightened eligibility as well. Nationwide, most people apply for benefits by phone. Last August, Florida began requiring people to apply online and to complete a 45-minute test to assess their job skills, according to a complaint submitted to the federal labor secretary by the National Employment Law Project and Florida Legal Services.
The complaint said that applicants with limited Internet access or English skills, disabilities or difficulty reading had effectively been shut out, and that failure to complete the assessment was illegally being used to deny benefits. Denials have soared; now just over half of applicants are rejected. Nationally, 30 percent of applicants are rejected, according to the law project.
The changes have saved the state $2.7 million, according to James Miller, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The state’s unemployment rate, he pointed out, has declined for 10 straight months. “The Department of Economic Opportunity provides accommodations to individuals with barriers to filing their claims,” he wrote in an e-mail. “D.E.O. welcomes any review and is certain that Florida’s statutory changes are in full compliance with federal law.”
The Labor Department is reviewing Florida’s unemployment program in response to multiple complaints, a spokesman said.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Putin Rejects White House Talks
AFP reports: "Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month rejected an offer from United States (US) President Barack Obama for landmark bilateral talks at the White House, the Kremlin revealed on Tuesday."
Less than a week before Mr Putin's May 7 inauguration, he received a missive from Mr Obama touching upon bilateral and international issues and inviting him to discuss them in a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the May 18 to 19 G8 summit, Mr Putin's foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said.
'Obama sent his letter on May 2,' Mr Ushakov told a briefing.
'He even proposed holding a separate meeting at the White House in Washington outside of the framework of the G8.'
Putin skipped the G8 talks at Camp David earlier this month, sending his trusted protege in his place.
Iran confirms ‘Flame’ cyber attack
High-ranking Iranian officials’ computers have been attacked by a newly detected data mining virus called “Flame,” an Iranian cyber defense group confirmed on Tuesday. The cyber attack is the most destructive since the Stuxnet virus.
Iran has deplored the “massive” data loss suffered since over the six months or more that Flame has been active. But the exact extent of damage has not been disclosed.
The newly spotted data mining virus may be the most harmful Iran has ever faced, even more dangerous than Stuxnet, warns Iran’s Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre. Two years ago, Stuxnet destroyed several centrifuges used for Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
“Flame” also appears to have been planted by a USB stick, which means a flash driver or a similar device had to have been inserted manually into at least one computer hooked up to the network.
“Those controlling the virus can direct it from a distance.' Flame' is no ordinary product. This was designed to monitor selected computers,” Kamran Napelian, an Iranian official, told The New York Times.
Still, Tehran says that the detection and clean-up tools were already finished in early May and can now be distributed among organizations at risk of infection.
Iran has suffered most due to the “Flame” attack, according to a report drawn up by Kaspersky Labs. The computers security company said 189 infections were reported in the Persian country, 98 in Israel and Palestine and 32 in Sudan. Other Middle East countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were also under attack.
Despite Israel also falling under attack, Iran still thinks the malware was “made by Tel-Aviv.”
“Its encryption has a special pattern which you only see coming from Israel. Unfortunately, they are very powerful in the field of IT,” says another Iranian cyber defense official.
The number of massive cyber attacks on Iran now totals four, while no one has yet claimed responsibility for the Stuxnet assault in 2010. The attacks run parallel to a series of unexplained explosions and assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, constantly raising feeling in the nation that the country is increasingly being targeted by covert operations organized by the US and Israel.
Thousands protest against Egyptian election results; Shafiq HQ set on fire
Unidentified assailants attacked protestors in Tahrir Square at midnight, Monday, after thousands gathered to demonstrate against Egypt's election results, that will see Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi face each in a runoff vote on 16 and 17 June.
Two hours earlier, unknown individuals ransacked and set fire to the former regime member's presidential campaign headquarters in Dokki, Cairo. Security forces arrested those suspected of starting the blaze. Fire trucks brought the fire under control a short while later.
During Monday afternoon, hundreds had staged protests against the electoral outcome outside Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), and the headquarters of Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) before joining Tahrir Square in the evening.
Similar protests took place across the country, including in Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria.
"We are sending a message to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) that we will never accept Ahmed Shafiq as our next president. He is the second Mubarak and was even in the Air Force like the ousted leader," says Aly, 24, a pharmacist who often works with the makeshift field hospitals during the clashes. "Personally I think the elections were rigged to put Mursi first, as it would have been a crisis if Shafiq was top – but, make no mistake, Shafiq is the military's man."
As the numbers grew to thousands, protesters– led by Khaled Ali, a former presidential contender and a left-wing labour lawyer – marched to Talaat Harb Square and around downtown Cairo before returning to Tahrir.
"Smash Shafiq on his head," the marchers chanted, whilst holding the former prime minister's presidential campaign posters upside down with his face crossed out.
Others chanted "Down with the dogs of the military regime" and called on bystanders on balconies overlooking Talaat Harb street to join them.
One protestor held a poster saying "If Shafiq wins, we are all dead" and others had the Ultras football fan flags of Zamalek White Knights team.
By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press
BEIRUT (AP) — Eyewitness accounts from the Syrian massacre emerged Tuesday, describing shadowy gunmen slaughtering whole families in their homes and targeting the most vulnerable in poor farming villages. Western nations expelled Syrian diplomats in a coordinated move against President Bashar Assad's regime over the killing of more than 100 people.
U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan met with Assad in Damascus to try to salvage what was left of a peace plan, which since being brokered six weeks ago has failed to stop any of the violence on the ground.
Survivors of the Houla massacre blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of the carnage as the killings reverberated inside Syria and beyond, further isolating Assad and embarrassing his few remaining allies.
"It's very hard for me to describe what I saw, the images were incredibly disturbing," a Houla resident who hid in his home during the massacre told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Women, children without heads, their brains or stomachs spilling out."
He said the pro-regime gunmen, known as shabiha, targeted the most vulnerable in the farming villages that make up Houla, a poor area in Homs province. "They went after the women, children and elderly," he said, asking that his name not be used out of fear of reprisals.
Assad's government often deploys fearsome militias that provide muscle for the regime and carry out military-style attacks. They frequently work closely with soldiers and security forces, but the regime never acknowledges their existence, allowing it to deny responsibility for their actions.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there are strong suspicions that pro-Assad fighters were responsible for some of the killings, adding that he has seen no reason to believe that "third elements" — or outside forces — were involved, although he did not rule it out.
The Syrian regime has denied any role in the massacre, blaming the killings on "armed terrorists" who attacked army positions in the area and slaughtered innocent civilians. It has provided no evidence to support its narrative, nor has it given a death toll.
Following his meeting with Assad, Annan called on the government and "all government-backed militias" to stop military operations and show maximum restraint. He also called on the armed opposition to stop all violence.
"We are at a tipping point," Annan told reporters in Damascus. "The Syrian people do not want the future to be one of bloodshed and division."
Cranking up the pressure on Assad, the Obama administration gave Syria's most senior envoy in Washington, the charge d'affaires at the Syrian Embassy, 72 hours to leave the United States. Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria also expelled Syrian diplomats.
"We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter of innocent lives," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington. "This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment to date of the Syrian government's flagrant violations of its U.N. Security Council obligations."
Monday, May 28, 2012
On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet. Dozens of countries, including Russia and China, are pushing hard to reach this goal by year's end.
As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last June, his goal and that of his allies is to establish "international control over the Internet" through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a treaty-based organization under U.N. auspices.
If successful, these new regulatory proposals would upend the Internet's flourishing regime, which has been in place since 1988. That year, delegates from 114 countries gathered in Australia to agree to a treaty that set the stage for dramatic liberalization of international telecommunications. This insulated the Internet from economic and technical regulation and quickly became the greatest deregulatory success story of all time.
Since the Net's inception, engineers, academics, user groups and others have convened in bottom-up nongovernmental organizations to keep it operating and thriving through what is known as a "multi-stakeholder" governance model.
This consensus-driven private-sector approach has been the key to the Net's phenomenal success. In 1995, shortly after it was privatized, only 16 million people used the Internet world-wide. By 2011, more than two billion were online—and that number is growing by as much as half a million every day.
This explosive growth is the direct result of governments generally keeping their hands off the Internet sphere. Net access, especially through mobile devices, is improving the human condition more quickly—and more fundamentally—than any other technology in history.
Nowhere is this more true than in the developing world, where unfettered Internet technologies are expanding economies and raising living standards. Enlarge Image Corbis Farmers who live far from markets are now able to find buyers for their crops through their Internet-connected mobile devices without assuming the risks and expenses of traveling with their goods.
Worried parents are able to go online to locate medicine for their sick children. And proponents of political freedom are better able to share information and organize support to break down the walls of tyranny. The Internet has also been a net job creator.
A recent McKinsey study found that for every job disrupted by Internet connectivity, 2.6 new jobs are created. It is no coincidence that these wonderful developments blossomed as the Internet migrated further away from government control.
Today, however, Russia, China and their allies within the 193 member states of the ITU want to renegotiate the 1988 treaty to expand its reach into previously unregulated areas.
Reading even a partial list of proposals that could be codified into international law next December at a conference in Dubai is chilling:
• Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;
• Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for "international" Internet traffic, perhaps even on a "per-click" basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;
• Impose unprecedented economic regulations such as mandates for rates, terms and conditions for currently unregulated traffic-swapping agreements known as "peering."
• Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;
• Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;
• Regulate international mobile roaming rates and practices. Many countries in the developing world, including India and Brazil, are particularly intrigued by these ideas.
Even though Internet-based technologies are improving billions of lives everywhere, some governments feel excluded and want more control. And let's face it, strong-arm regimes are threatened by popular outcries for political freedom that are empowered by unfettered Internet connectivity.
They have formed impressive coalitions, and their efforts have progressed significantly.