Saturday, June 30, 2012

Successful test of interceptor missile off Hawaii

KEKAHA, Hawaii (AP) - The U.S. military has successfully conducted a test flight of the Navy's newest interceptor missile by shooting down a ballistic missile target off Hawaii.

The Missile Defense Agency says the USS Lake Erie detected and tracked the separating missile launched from Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Tuesday night.

It's the second consecutive successful intercept test of the SM-3 Block IB missile and the second-generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, which is operated from ships. The first successful intercept test took place last month.

The agency says the test was the 23rd successful intercept in 28 flight test firings for the Aegis system.

The system is the sea-based midcourse component of the agency's Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats.


The Russians are fucked, those ships can roam the artic anytime they want

Police: 'Threat matrix' dictated SWAT team response at Powell Avenue home

EVANSVILLE — Stephanie Milan, 18, was relaxing in her family’s living room Thursday watching the Food Network when a heavily armed squad of Evansville police officers arrived on the front porch.

Dressed in full protective gear, police broke the storm door of the home at 616 East Powell Ave. — the Milans’ front door was already open on the hot summer day. They also broke a front window. They tossed a flashbang stun grenade into the living room that made a deafening blast. A short distance away, a local television crew’s cameras were rolling. The police had invited the station to videotape the forced entry of the residence.

Stephanie Milan said she managed to remain calm because she knew her family hadn’t done anything wrong. Still, she was stunned and confused.

After speaking to Milan and her grandmother, Louise, police determined those inside the house had nothing to do with their investigation.

Police were executing a search warrant for computer equipment, which they said was used to make anonymous and specific online threats against police and their families on the website

“The front door was open. It’s not like anyone was in there hiding,” said Ira Milan, Stephanie's grandfather and owner of the property for many years. “To bring a whole SWAT team seems a little excessive.”

Ira Milan said the perpetrator of the threats likely used Stephanie’s Internet service connection from an outside location, which led police to the East Powell Avenue address.

But Police Chief Billy Bolin said, “We have no way of being able to tell that,” and the concerning Internet posts “definitely come back to that address.”

“I think it was a show of force that they are not going to tolerate this,” said Ira Milan, “But what about the residents and what they have to tolerate?”

After noting he has lived there for 30 years, Milan said, “No one has ever been arrested at my house.”

Bolin said Friday that department records indicated relatives associated with the address had criminal histories.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said Friday he spoke to Bolin about the incident and was satisfied that police were justified in forcibly entering the home.

“They had what they thought were very specific threats against police officers, their families and the communities,” Winnecke said.

He said police told him that the Milans’ storm door and window were being repaired at city expense.

Workers were at the Milan home on Friday repairing the storm door and broken window. Carpet inside the house was stained with black residue from the flashbang grenade.

Ira Milan said police offered to pay for the damage. Laptops and a cellphone belonging to Stephanie Milan — a May graduate of Signature School who will attend the University of Southern Indiana this fall and major in radiology — were seized in the raid and remained in police possession on Friday.

Bolin said the SWAT team used its standard “knock and announce” procedure of knocking on the wall and repeating the words “police search warrant” three times before entering.

The police chief said the procedure doesn’t require officers to wait for a response.

“It’s designed to distract,” he said.

The decision to use force

Police used what they called a law enforcement threat matrix to determine the proper response to information in the posts. One post mentioned explosives, and another specifically named Bolin and referenced the area where he lives. But no other officers’ names or addresses were identified.

Sgt. Jason Cullum, a police department spokesman, said one person had posted that he possessed explosives, and that “Evansville is going to feel the pain.” That threat, Cullum said, played a major role in dictating the police response.

Cullum said the conversation at which concerned officers began under a blog headline.

“It said, ‘EPD leak: Officers’ addresses given out,’ or something along those lines. There were some generalized comments about people not liking the police, and that didn’t really concern us,” Cullum said, but then the threats became more specific and suggested officers’ families could be at risk.

Time stamps on the postings indicated that they were made Wednesday evening. Cullum defended the department’s action.

“We brought them out and talked to them,” Cullum said of the Milans. “They were released at the scene. Investigators felt they were not involved in the posting.

“This is a little more difficult that a traditional crime scene, because we’re dealing with the Internet. They definitely weren’t expecting (a SWAT team at the door). The reason we did that is the threats were specific enough, and the potential for danger was there.

“This is a big deal to us,” Cullum said. “This may be just somebody who was online just talking stupid. What I would suggest to anybody who visits websites like that is that their comments can be taken literally.”

The search warrant

Police were executing a search warrant approved by a judge. Such warrants are routinely filed in the Vanderburgh County Clerks Office, but officials in the clerks office said Friday afternoon they had no record of a warrant served on that address.

When asked by the Courier & Press for access to the document that allowed them to force entry to the home, Bolin refused. He said it might contain information that would compromise their investigation. However, he said the document didn’t contain names of any suspects.

“We have an idea in our mind who it is, but we don’t have evidence yet,” Bolin said.

Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann also refused to release the warrant.

The Courier & Press filed Freedom of Information requests Friday afternoon seeking the document from the police department, clerk’s office and prosecutor’s office.


No wonder people are making threats? They should all be hung from the nearest tree.

Shoot first then knock...why would they bring a SWAT team to investigate someone's postings?

Strategy: William Lind On How The Taliban Mastered The Operational Art Of Modern Warfare

"Excellent little article and it is always cool to check out what William Lind has to say. If you are familiar with the term ‘4th Generation Warfare‘, then you would know that Lind was one of the originators of the concept. So in the world of strategy and warfare, I tend to listen to what guys like this have to say. (read the paper here)
As far as I can tell, the reception of this article is kind of luke warm. Meaning it is debatable, and the guys over at Zen Pundit did a pretty good job of pointing out where Lind was short.

However, I think Lind errs in ascribing too much credit to the Taliban here. A much simpler explanation is that the usually illiterate ANA soldier is a product of the same xenophobic cultural and religious environment that created the Taliban, the Haqqanis, vicious Islamist goons like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar or the Afghan tribesmen who slaughtered the retreating garrison of Lord Elphinstone in 1841.

While the Taliban have infiltrators, it remains that many of the “Green on Blue” killings are just as easily explained by personal grievances, zealous religious bigotry, indiscipline, mistreatment by American advisers or Afghan superiors and sudden jihad syndrome. While it is impolitic to emphasize it, Afghan betrayal and murder of foreign allies (generally seen as “occupiers”) is something of a longstanding historical pattern. The Taliban capitalize on it politically but they are not responsible for all of it.
Feral Jundi

The only smart thing Bush ever did was to move the war to Iraq. O's a idiot and has lost the war in Afghanistan

Border Patrol union blasts Homeland Security instructions to 'run away' and 'hide' from gunmen

Border Patrol agents in Arizona are blasting their bosses for telling them, along with all other Department of Homeland Security employees, to run and hide if they encounter an "active shooter."

It's one thing to tell civilian employees to cower under a desk if a gunman starts spraying fire in a confined area, say members of Tucson Local 2544/National Border Patrol Council, but to give armed law enforcement professionals the same advice is downright insulting. The instructions from DHS come in the form of pamphlets and a mandatory computer tutorial.

“We are now taught in an ‘Active Shooter’ course that if we encounter a shooter in a public place we are to ‘run away’ and ‘hide’" union leader Brandon Judd wrote on the website of 3,300-member union local. “If we are cornered by such a shooter we are to (only as a last resort) become ‘aggressive’ and ‘throw things’ at him or her. We are then advised to ‘call law enforcement’ and wait for their arrival (presumably, while more innocent victims are slaughtered)."

The FEMA-administered computer course, entitled “IS-907- Active Shooter: What You Can Do,” is a 45-minute tutorial that provides guidance to all employees on how to recognize indicators of possible workplace violence and what to do should their office be invaded by gunmen and focuses around three main options; either evacuate, hide out, or in dire circumstances, take action.

Once the course is completed, employees are urged to download additional materials including a summary booklet and pocket-sized card outlining protocol, which was also handed out to employees two months ago.

One DHS employee told the instruction cards were handed out to employees six weeks ago. At the time, he assumed they were only for civilian employees, not armed law enforcement officers within the department, which oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Requiring BP agents to follow the same steps is egregious,” he said.

DHS officials maintain that the Active Shooter course was designed for all employees—civilian and law-enforcement officers-- and no one should rush into a situation where they, or others around them, could get hurt.

“The Department of Homeland Security takes very seriously its responsibility to protect all of its employees from threats that may surface in the workplace,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel said in a written statement to

“CBP workforce training is designed to prepare all employees, including leaders, managers, supervisors, law enforcement personnel and non-law enforcement personnel, to understand their own roles and the roles of their fellow employees in responding to threats. In an active shooter scenario, employees are taught to take actions that keep them alive.”

But members of Local 2544 say they are obligated to protect the public in such a situation, whether they are on duty or not. Given the instructions, some wonder if they would be disciplined for taking down a gunman in a situation like the Fort Hood shooting or the January, 2011 case in Casa Adobes, in which a deranged gunmen shot 19 people, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed.

“It is always comforting to know that for those of us who carry a weapon when we are off-duty, if we should encounter such a situation, stop a shooter and save countless lives, we can look forward to being disciplined or fired by the Border Patrol because we should have run away to hide and then maybe thrown objects at the deranged killer instead of taking action and stopping him with a firearm,” the union local's website says.


Friday night news dump: White House salaries edition

The White House released its annual report to Congress on staff salaries. At 4:39 p.m. on Friday.

A quick review found the White House payroll appears to have grown since last year, going from $37.1 million in 2011 to $37.8 million in 2012. The number of employees listed also grew -- from 454 last year to 468 in 2012.

White House officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking explanation of the growth. Overall, the payroll has shrunk since 2009, when it totaled $39.1 million.

On this year's report, there were 68 special assistants to the president, 22 assistants to the president and 24 deputy assistants. They cover a wide range of specializations from legislative affairs to economic policy and presidential correspondence.

The full report can be seen here.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Debt crisis: Germany caves in over bond buying, bank aid after Italy and Spain threaten to block 'everything'

On Thursday night, Italy and Spain plunged an EU summit into disarray by threatening to block “everything” unless Germany and other eurozone countries backed their demands for help.

Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister, celebrated the agreement, reached in the early hours of Friday, as a “very important deal for the future of the EU and the eurozone”.

He could not resist reminding Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, that Italy had also won on the football pitch, by defeating Germany two goals to one for a place in the finals of the European Championship.

“It is a double satisfaction for Italy,” he said.

The euro spiked against the dollar after news of the deal and Asian stock markets rose sharply, with Japan's Nikkei up 1.4pc and Hong Kong's closing Hang Seng 2.2pc higher. When trading began in Europe, London's FTSE 100 climbed 1.74pc, Germany's DAX added 2.39pc and France's CAC gained 2.86pc. In Spain the IBEX jumped 4.05pc higher and Italy's FTSE MIB is up 3.07pc.

Under the deal, Spanish banks will be recapitalised directly by allowing a €100 billion EU bailout to transferred off Spain’s balance sheet after the European Central Bank takes over as the single currency’s banking supervisor at the end of the year.

The decision, taken by a meeting of eurozone leaders in the early hours of Friday morning, will be based on a move to put the ECB at the centre of a “effective single supervisory mechanism” for banks after an EU summit in December.

“We affirm that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns,” said a summit statement.

Relief for Spain was accompanied by a pledge to begin purchases of Italian bonds using EU bailout funds to reduce Italy’s borrowing costs with a lighter set of conditions, based on meeting Brussels fiscal targets rather than intrusive IMF oversight.

A promise was also made to “examine the situation of the Irish financial sector” offering possible relief to Ireland by relieving the government balance sheet debt burden.

The Spanish bank bailout, to be agreed on 9 July, will initially use the euro’s European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) before it is transferred into a new permanent fund later this year.

When the transfer takes place to the European Stability Mechanism the new loans will not be given seniority, giving extra security to Spain’s creditors.

After the ECB takes over eurozone banking supervision next year then the Spanish bailout will “very rapidly taken off balance sheet” and directly loaned to banks reducing Spain’s debt burden and borrowing costs.

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council of EU leaders, hailed the deal as an important step “to reassure markets and to get again some stability around the sovereign bonds of our member states.”

But, he warned, the new aid measures would be reserved for “countries that behave themselves” by abiding by the EU’s fiscal rules and austerity measures.

HAAAA, it's party time!

Darrell Issa Puts Details of Secret Wiretap Applications in Congressional Record

In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.

The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.

The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.

According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.

Holder and Cummings have both maintained that the wiretap applications did not contain such details and that the applications were reviewed narrowly for probable cause, not for whether any investigatory tactics contained followed Justice Department policy.

The wiretap applications were signed by senior DOJ officials in the department’s criminal division, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco and another official who is now deceased.

In Fast and Furious, agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed assault guns bought by “straw purchasers” to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.

The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.

Straw purchasers are individuals who buy guns on behalf of criminals, obscuring who is buying the weapons.

While Issa has since said he has obtained a number of wiretap applications, the letter only refers to one, from March 15, 2010. The full application is not included in what Issa entered into the Congressional Record, and names are obscured in Issa’s letter.

In the application, ATF agents included transcripts from a wiretap intercept from a previous Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that demonstrated the suspects were part of a gun-smuggling ring.

“The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” the letter says.

The application included details such as how many guns specific suspects had purchased via straw purchasers and how many of those guns had been recovered in Mexico.

It also described how ATF officials watched guns bought by suspected straw purchasers but then ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.

In at least one instance, the guns were recovered at a police stop at the U.S.-Mexico border the next day.

The application included financial details for four suspected straw purchasers showing they had purchased $373,000 worth of guns in cash but reported almost no income for the previous year, the letter says.

“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter says.

Holder declined to discuss the contents of the applications at a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 7 but said the applications were narrowly reviewed for whether there was probable cause to obtain a wiretap application.

Thousands of wiretap applications are reviewed each year by the DOJ’s criminal division. The applications are designed to obtain approval, so they tend to focus on the most suspicious information available.

A line attorney first creates a summary of the application, which is then usually reviewed by a deputy to Lanny Breuer, the head of the division, on his behalf. It is then reviewed and approved or denied by a judge.

Cummings has sided with the DOJ in the debate over the secret applications, but the full substance of his argument is unknown.

A June 5 letter from Cummings responding to Issa’s May 24 letter said Issa “omits the critical fact that [redacted].” The entire first section of the letter’s body is likewise blacked out.

"Sadly, it looks like Mr. Issa is continuing his string of desperate and unsubstantiated claims, while hiding key information from the very same documents," a Democratic committee staffer said. "His actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the facts, as well as a reckless disregard for our nation’s courts and federal prosecutors who are trying to bring criminals to justice. We’re not going to stoop to his level. Obviously, we are going to honor the court’s seal and the prosecutors’ requests. But if Mr. Issa won’t tell you what he is hiding from the wiretaps, you should ask him why."


I saw that on c-span yesterday and wondered how that worked.

Pedestrian thrown in jail for 12 hours for holding up sign warning drivers about police speed trap

A woman in Houston, Texas, was arrested and jailed for 12 hours after she held up a make-shift sign to warn drivers about a speed trap.

Natalie Plummer was officially charged with walking in the roadway -- jaywalking, essentially -- though she says the police officers who arrested her were just angry that she had tipped off speeders.

Miss Plummer was riding her bicycle along a road near downtown Houston on Thursday when she spotted police officers pulling drivers over.

She told KTRK that it looked like the officers were targeting cars at random, so she recorded some the activity on her cell phone.

Then, she said, she turned around and wrote 'Speed Trap!!' in large letters on a piece of grocery bag to warn oncoming traffic.

'I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead,' she told the TV station.

The officers didn't see it that way. Shortly after she took up her post, a squad car pulled up to Miss Plummer and an officer grabbed her backpack off her shoulder and began rifling through it.

Then, he handcuffed her and told her she was under arrested for felony obstruction of justice and that she would spent three to five years in jail, at minimum.

She ended up being charged with misdemeanor 'walking in the road where a sidewalk is present,' through she was in jail 12 hours before she was able to bail out.

Miss Plummer said she wasn't obstructing justice, and she wasn't in the roadway, either -- she was on the sidwalk.

'He couldn't take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it,' she said.

The Houston Police Department wouldn't speak on camera about the arrest, but stood by the officer's report that she was walking in the road and a danger to herself and others.

A KTRK legal analyst says Miss Plummer should not have been arrested.


You know it looks in that picture like she's on the sidewalk. How come no one arrest the officers for filing a false arrest report, something which is a serious crime.

Obamacare Parody

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Turkish Military Convoy Of 30 Armored Vehicles Heading For Syrian Border: Report

A Turkish convoy of 30 military vehicles and trucks loaded with missile batteries is heading for the Syrian border 50 kilometers away from Turkey's coastal town of Iskenderun in the Hatay province, a Turkish state-run news agency reported Thursday.

Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported deployment of heavily armed and guarded military vehicles to military installations in Sanliurfa province, a panhandle region with Syria to the South.

Turkish military units have reportedly bolstered security measures even as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced toughened steps against Syria a week after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military jet on the Mediterranean near the joint border.

Although Turkey hasn't declared war on Syria, Erdogan on Tuesday called Syria a "clear and present danger" for Turkey and all military vehicles approaching the 900-kilometer Turkish border with Syria are to be considered a threat.

"We just wish to defend our borders and we don't want any kind of incursions," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal was quoted saying. "Last month there were five different and separate airspace violations by Syrian helicopters and there (are) also other negative developments affecting the daily situation on our side of the border."

Following NATO's emergency talks in Brussels on the incident, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance considered Syria's actions in shooting down the Turkish plane to be "unacceptable."

Though American and allied officials said some intelligence reports since the downing last Friday were conflicting, they affirmed that the available data suggest that the Turkish warplane may have been on a military mission rather than what Turkey claims to be a routine training exercise to test its air defenses.

The coalition has also questioned the reason behind the Turkish airplane venturing into Syrian territory despite the tensions between the countries.

Syria maintains that the plane was shot by anti-aircraft fire well within its airspace. But Turkey contradicts the Syrian stance saying the plane was targeted over international waters after it strayed briefly into Syrian space.

Though NATO and the US military are examining the claims, their ally Turkey's version of the events is bound to gain greater acceptance over Syria's.

"On a political level, NATO is taking the Turks at their word," a senior US official who has reviewed classified reports of the episode, was reported as saying by the New York Times.

Even if Turks were spying on Syrian military readiness, it does not justify the attack, a senior NATO diplomat said. "When this happens between neighboring countries, you give a warning and then send up interceptors," an official, who wished to remain anonymous, told the New York Times. "You don't just shoot down the plane."

However, Turkey's deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, denied the claim that the Turkish plane was on a reconnaissance mission, but acknowledged that the two-seat RF-4E Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F-4 fighter jet, was equipped for surveillance.

"If it had had a reconnaissance mission as claimed, our plane should have been accompanied by other warplanes for security purposes and the maneuvers required as part of such a mission could have been clearly seen on the radar screens," Arinc was quoted saying by the Anatolia News Agency.

On April 9, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group, reported that the Syrian forces had fired across the border into Turkey at camps housing refugees just within the Turkish territory.

In October last year, Anatolia reported that Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad who defected from the Syrian military had set up a Free Syrian Army, an armed Syrian opposition group and was operating out of Turkey.


Iraq PM Calls for Early Elections

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for early elections, in a statement released on Wednesday, after a series of political crises escalated into calls for his removal.

"When the other side refuses to sit at the table of dialogue and insists on the policy of provoking successive crises in a way that causes serious damage to the supreme interests of Iraqi people, the prime minister found himself forced to call for early elections," said the statement on the premier's website.

Iraq has been hit by a series of intertwined political crises that began in mid-December with accusations by the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc that Maliki was concentrating power in his hands and have escalated into calls to unseat him.

An effort to persuade President Jalal Talabani to call a no-confidence vote stalled earlier this month when he said that Maliki's opponents lacked the votes to oust him.

That decision meant the only way Maliki's opponents could press their drive for a no-confidence motion was by requesting he appear before parliament and then holding the vote.

Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said on June 21 that Maliki's opponents were to ask in the coming days for him to appear before the house in a renewed bid to oust him.

The crises have paralyzed government, especially parliament, which has passed no significant legislation except for the budget, while other important measures such as a hydrocarbons law regulating Iraq's oil sector have been delayed.


Official: Battalion commander dead in Fort Bragg shooting

Updated at 7:38 p.m. ET: A soldier is dead and two others injured following a shooting Thursday afternoon at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, according to a statement released by the post. A senior U.S. defense official told NBC News that the deceased victim was a battalion commander.

The shooter was a soldier, according to the Fort Bragg statement. He shot another member of the unit during a safety brief -- in this case, a 10- to 15-minute lecture by a commander or soldier-in-charge about staying safe for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.

The soldier then shot himself. He is injured and in custody, according to the statement. A third soldier was "slightly" wounded, according to the statement.

The victim is from the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, which is a reconnaissance and intelligence unit, according to its Facebook page. A brigade includes three or more battalions, according to the Army's homepage.

Special agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation team were on site Thursday evening.

“This is a tragedy for our community,” Col. Kevin Arata, spokesman for Fort Bragg, said at a press conference. “We don’t yet know the reasons for the shooting, but are working with the unit and the affected families to help them through this difficult period.”

Officials said earlier that the incident does not appear to be terrorist-related.

Fort Bragg officials said on Facebook that the post is not on lockdown.


Shatner drops pants at L.A. airport

Star Trek legend William Shatner was left nursing a bruised ego when his trousers fell down during an airport security check in front of dozens of fellow travellers.

The actor was queuing at Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight to South Africa when he was singled out for a search by officials.

He had decided to wear loose-fitting clothing for the journey and did not have a belt holding his pants up - and he was left red-faced when they fell down, exposing his underwear.

Shatner says, "It was awful to have people looking at me with my pants down, probably the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me... It was a long flight so I wanted to wear loose clothing because I didn't want anything to bind me."

Toronto Sun

Even Captain Kirk

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Man cleared of stabbing thief to death by 'Stand Your Ground' law is shot dead by stray bullet on his way to work

A man who was controversially cleared of murdering a thief by the Stand Your Ground law has himself been killed as he drove to work.

Greyston Garcia, was shot dead by a stray bullet in a gang shooting as he drove to his job at a convenience store through Liberty City, Florida.

It comes three months after the 26-year-old escaped second-degree murder charges in the fatal stabbing of Pedro Roteta in January.

Garcia saw Roteta and another man stealing the radio from his car outside his Miami home, grabbed a knife and ran downstairs.

Roteta began running and Garcia chased him for a block before stabbing him to death - which was caught on surveillance camera.

In March, the charge against Garcia was dropped even though he failed to call police after the attack, hid his knife and pawned the other stolen radios he took off Roteta, according to the Miami New Times.

But his defense team argued that Garcia was within his rights to use deadly force to defend himself and his property and the judge agreed.

Garcia was shot at 9.30 p.m. on Tuesday when a stray bullet went through the passenger side window and struck him, causing him to crash his truck.

He had been returning to work at a convenience store after a break. He died on the way to hospital.

Police said the bullet most likely came from a gang fight nearby, the Miami Herald reported.

Sixteen-year-old Ronald Dwayne Jones, believed to be involved with the gang shooting, was also killed. No arrests have been made in either death.

Garcia's controversial case further fuelled the debate about the Stand Your Ground law, which was already being scrutinized following the death of Trayvon Martin.

Martin, 17, was shot dead in February by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed he was acting in accordance with the Stand Your Ground law.


RIP, My condolences to the whole family.. This was the nephew of a close friend of mine.

The talk all day was that the gang shot him for revenge...

Guest post: Fixing Inequities Towards Returning Veterans

Battle-scarred American veterans are facing continuing warfare as they return home. While there has been a drastic increase in veteran enrollment in higher education, everything from a traditional 4 year university to online colleges and universities, many are still finding coming back to be a hard fit. This civil strategy is more subtle than field combat, but the wounds are deep and sometimes lethal: high unemployment, difficulty fitting into civilian life, and high rates of suicide among veterans.

Although soldiers bring some of their problems home with them, many of the issues they face are woven into the American social fabric. In spite of public sentiments about honoring the troops, action in the form of meaningful policy has not always followed. Even in 1944, when the House and Senate passed the sweeping GI Bill of Rights, pledging financial help to men and women who had served their country was a controversial topic. Some lawmakers balked at paying $20 a week to unemployed veterans, arguing that they would be less likely to look for work if they were receiving aid. Others argued that attending a college or university, which the GI Bill would finance, was a privilege reserved only for the wealthy.

In the end, those lobbying for more education and other benefits for veterans prevailed. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the legislation, and the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act became law in June 1944. Its most important provisions were education and training, loan pledges for homes, farms and businesses, and unemployment pay. By 1947, 49% of students entering college were veterans. The country had moved far beyond the benefits of $60 and a train ticket given to WWI veterans upon their return just 20 years before.

The GI Bill has been revised several times since its passage, with the newest version giving full college tuition and fees up to $17,500 to veterans who qualify. However, today’s veterans still face vast problems at home.

  • The unemployment rate for Gulf War era-II vets--those who have served since September 2001--hovers around 12%. The rate of unemployment for all veterans is 8.3%.

  • Men ages 18 to 24 who served during the Gulf War era II report a 29.1% unemployment rate, compared with 17.6% of male non-veterans the same age.

  • 26% of veterans from the same era report a service-connected disability, while only 14% of all veterans report the same.

  • 44% of veterans who served in the past decade report difficulty returning to civilian life.

  • Veterans have in 2010 made up 20% of the 30,000 estimated suicides in the country.

Although the financial crisis that began in 2008 complicates veterans' current social and economic problems, these difficulties are neither new nor easy to solve. Committed policymakers in different states across the country are trying to help ease the burdens of veterans, but laws vary from state to state. The process of helping veterans return to civilian society in an orderly and productive manner requires continued national solutions.


Medical Examiner: Causeway Cannibal Not High On Bath Salts

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Rudy Eugene, the Causeway Cannibal who ate the face off a homeless man he attacked along the MacArthur Causeway, was apparently not high on bath salts or any other exotic street drug at the time of the attack, according to a report released Wednesday by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner.

The news leaves law enforcement officials wondering what drove Eugene to strip off his clothes, attack homeless man Ronald Poppo, and chew off pieces of flesh from Poppo’s face.

Speculation about the cause of Eugene’s rampage on Poppo’s face centered on drugs, specifically bath salts, after police union officials claimed an increase in bizarre behavior among people on the street using such drugs.

The much-anticipated toxicology report released by Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Hyma found marijuana in Eugene’s system, something CBS4 News had previously reported, but no evidence of any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs.

The report said this includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines (Ecstasy, Meth and others), phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust), heroin, oxycodone, Xanax, synthetic marijuana (Spice), and many other similar compounds.

Hyma’s office specifically ruled out bath salts, a class of synthetic drugs that have been known to cause bizarre behavior and overheating of people who use them, two things that made some believe Eugene’s cannibalistic behavior could be blamed on the drugs.

“The department has also sought the assistance of an outside forensic toxicology reference laboratory, which has confirmed the absence of “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and LSD,” the report said.

“Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories, marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr. Rudy Eugene.”

The news from the medical examiner sends investigators back to square one as they look for what caused Eugene’s bizarre behavior.

A girlfriend and a friend who had seen Eugene hours before the attack said he had used marijuana, but had seen him use no other drug before traveling to the Urban Beach Weekend on Miami Beach the morning of the attack.

Eugene abandoned his car on the beach and walked back to Miami on the MacArthur Causeway, stripping off his clothes during the three-mile trip, and at one point he was spotted swinging from a lamp post.

Once on the Miami side of the causeway, he encountered Poppo where the MiamiMover crosses the causeway, in view of security cameras atop the Miami Herald building. Those cameras detailed how the naked cannibal attacked the much older Poppo, knocked him to the ground, and stripped him of his clothing.

Once overcome, Eugene chewed flesh from Poppo’s face, but a later autopsy report found he did not actually eat it.

A police officer was called to the scene by people who spotted the bizarre attack. He tried to intervene but was forced to shoot, killing Eugene and apparently striking the badly wounded Poppo.

Poppo, who was taken to Ryder Trauma Center, survived the attack but has no memory of it. His face was virtually destroyed but doctors say much of it can be repaired.

Eugene’s family and friends say they are clueless about why he attacked Poppo, claiming the former high school football player and car wash employee had never shown such violent tendencies. Many believed drugs were to blame, but with Wednesday’s report the search has begun for a new cause for one of South Florida’s most bizarre crimes.


One likely possibility to this mystery is that the police lied, that they made the whole thing up to cover up the fact that they shot and killed one unarmed man and terribly wounded the other unarmed man, then made up a crazy story about cannibals on the causeway to cover up the crime!! And of course the media ate it up

Texas college hacks government drone

There are a lot of cool things you can do with $1,000, but scientists at an Austin, Texas college have come across one that is often overlooked: for less than a grand, how’d you like to hijack a US government drone?

A group of researchers led by Professor Todd Humphreys from the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory recently succeeded in raising the eyebrows of the US government. With just around $1,000 in parts, Humphreys’ team took control of an unmanned aerial vehicle operated by the US Department of Homeland Security.

After being challenged by his lab, the DHS dared Humphreys’ crew to hack into their drone and take command. Much to their chagrin, they did exactly that.

Humphrey tells Fox News that for a few hundreds dollar his team was able to “spoof” the GPS system on board the DHS drone, a technique that involves mimicking the actual signals sent to the global positioning device and then eventually tricking the target into following a new set of commands. And, for just $1,000, Humphreys says the spoofer his team assembled was the most advanced one ever built.

“Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Humphreys tells Fox. The real danger here, however, is that the government is currently considering plans that will allow local law enforcement agencies and other organizations from coast-to-coast to control drones of their own in America’s airspace.

“In five or ten years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he tells Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.”

Domestic drones are already being used by the DHS and other governmental agencies, and several small-time law enforcement groups have accumulated UAVs of their own as they await clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. Indeed, by 2020 there expects to betens of thousands of drones diving and dipping through US airspace. With that futuristic reality only a few years away, Humphreys’ experiment suggests that the FAA may have their work cut out for them if they think it’s as easy as just approving domestic use anytime soon. After all, reports Newser, domestic drones are likely to use the same unencrypted GPS signals provided to civilians, allowing seemingly anyone with $1,000 and the right research to hack into the system and harness a UAV for their own personal use.

“What if you could take down one of these drones delivering FedEx packages and use that as your missile?” Humphreys asks. “That’s the same mentality the 9-11 attackers had,”


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Assad says Syria at war as battle reaches capital

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared on Tuesday that his country was at war and ordered his new government to spare no effort to achieve victory, as the worst fighting of the 16-month conflict reached the outskirts of the capital.

Video published by activists recorded heavy gunfire and explosions in suburbs of Damascus. A trail of fresh blood on a sidewalk in the suburb of Qudsiya led into a building where one casualty was taken. A naked man writhed in pain, his body pierced by shrapnel.

Syria's state news agency SANA said "armed terrorist groups" had blocked the old road from Damascus to Beirut.

The declaration that Syria is at war marks a change of rhetoric from Assad, who had long dismissed the uprising against him as the work of scattered militants funded from abroad.

"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday in a speech broadcast on state television.

"When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."

The rambling speech - Assad also commented on subjects as far afield as the benefits of renewable energy - left little room for compromise. He denounced the West, which "takes and never gives, and this has been proven at every stage".

The United Nations accuses Syrian forces of killing more than 10,000 people during the conflict, which began with a popular uprising and has built up into an armed insurgency against four decades of rule by Assad and his father.

The U.N. peacekeeping chief said it was too dangerous for a U.N. observer team, which suspended operations this month, to resume monitoring a ceasefire. The truce, part of a peace plan backed by international envoy Kofi Annan, has long since been abandoned in all but name.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group which compiles reports from rebels, said 115 people were killed across Syria on Tuesday, making it one of the bloodiest days of the conflict. Its toll included 74 civilians it said had been killed, including 28 in Qudsiya.

It described heavy fighting near the headquarters of the Republican Guard in Qudsiya, and in other Damascus suburbs of al-Hama and Mashrou' Dumar, just 9 km from the capital.

SANA said dozens of rebels were killed or wounded and others arrested in fighting on the old Beirut road. Government forces seized rocket launchers, sniper rifles, machineguns and a huge amount of ammunition, it said.

Accounts from the rebels and the government cannot be verified because access for journalists is restricted.

Samir al-Shami, an activist in Damascus, said tanks and armored vehicles were out on the streets of the suburbs.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Syria must beware the wrath of Turkey after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish warplane on Friday at the Mediterranean coast. He ordered his armed forces to react to any threat from Syria near the border.

"Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb," he told a meeting of his parliamentary party. "Everybody should know that Turkey's wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable."

NATO member states, summoned by Turkey to an urgent meeting in Brussels, condemned Syria over the incident in which two airmen were killed. The Western alliance called the incident "unacceptable" but stopped short of threatening retaliation.

NATO's cautious wording demonstrated the fear of Western powers as well as Turkey that armed intervention in Syria could stir sectarian war across the region. So far there has been no sign of an appetite for intervention like that carried out last year by NATO against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.


A Turkish official said Ankara's ambassador had not asked the NATO envoys for action "at this stage". Erdogan's speech was seen in Turkey as less belligerent than it might have been.

"Those who want war may be disappointed by the prime minister's speech," Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand wrote. "But a big part of society breathed a sigh of relief."

Nevertheless, Turkish officials say they are ready for scenarios that include a possible need to protect civilians near the border. A Turkish official who asked not to be identified said: "For Turkey there are two bad scenarios: one, a mass influx of refugees and two, large-scale massacres in Syria."

"Ankara has not taken a decision for military intervention or a humanitarian corridor at the moment. But if these are needed, everybody would prefer that they will be done with international legitimacy. However, if things go really badly we have to be ready for any kind of eventuality," he added.

Erdogan said the armed forces' rules of engagement had been changed as a result of the attack, which Turkey says took place without warning in international air space.

"Every military element approaching Turkey from the Syrian border and representing a security risk and danger will be assessed as a military threat and will be treated as a military target," he said.

Russia, which has acted as Assad's main defender in the U.N. Security Council, called for restraint and said shooting down the aircraft should not be "viewed as a provocation or a premeditated action."

Syrian and Turkish accounts of the incident differ. Syria says it had no choice but to take out the plane as it entered Syrian air space flying low and at high speed. It found out it was Turkish only after the engagement. Turkey insists its aircraft entered Syrian air space only briefly by mistake.

Turkey is the base for the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and shelters more than 30,000 refugees - a number Erdogan worries could rise sharply as fighting spreads. Rebel soldiers move regularly across the border and defectors muster inside Turkey.

Moscow has close relations with Damascus and has a naval base at Syria's port city of Tartus close to the spot where the jet was downed. Some defense experts said the Turkish plane could have been testing Russian-supplied Syrian air defenses.

Moscow-based defense think-tank CAST said Russia was expected to deliver nearly half a billion dollars worth of air defense systems, repaired helicopters and fighter jets to Syria this year despite international pressure to halt the arms sales.

Russia said it was crucial Iran should also attend a meeting on Syria of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and regional players organized by Annan in Geneva this weekend.

Western countries oppose Iran, Syria's closest regional ally, taking part in the meeting and some diplomats have said it was not entirely clear whether the meeting would take place.


Husband in China forced abortion 'missing': family

The husband of a Chinese woman whose forced abortion seven months into her pregnancy caused uproar has disappeared, a relative said Tuesday, adding her family is being harassed on a daily basis.

Feng Jianmei had to go through the termination earlier this month in the northern province of Shaanxi because she failed to pay a hefty fine for exceeding China's strict "one-child" population control policy.

The case caused an outcry when photos emerged online of Feng lying in a hospital bed in Zhenping county next to her baby's bloody corpse, prompting an official probe that concluded action should be taken against the perpetrators.

But a relative said Tuesday that Feng's husband Deng Jiyuan had gone missing Sunday.

"The last time I saw him, he was with all of us and he said that some leader wanted to speak to him, so he left," the relative, who refused to be named or otherwise identified, told AFP.

"We haven't seen him again since, and we can't get through to his mobile."

Calls made to police and government in Zhenping, and to the higher-level Ankang city government, went unanswered.

State news agency Xinhua reported late Tuesday that several government officials in Zhenping had been "punished" for involvement in the forced abortion.

Xinhua said that an investigation had concluded that the termination had "violated her (Feng's) rights late in her pregnancy" and that the head of the family planning bureau had been removed from his post.

The relative added that since Sunday, scores of unidentified people had been harassing the family.

"On Sunday evening we decided to go home (from hospital) and a lot of people had gathered outside," the relative said. "They hung banners on a bridge and many people came and shouted that we were traitors. Now wherever we go people follow us."

Feng's family members have spoken to foreign media and the relative said the protest could be linked to these interviews. It was unclear who the protesters were, but online reports suggested they had been hired by local authorities.

"If this is not organised by the powers-that-be, how can people make banners on their own and carry them out to the street?" one web user wrote on Sina's popular microblog service.

China's family planning policy aims to control the world's largest national population, now swollen to 1.3 billion people.

Under the measure, urban families are generally allowed to have one child, while rural families can give birth to two children if the first is a girl. Parents have to pay a fine if they contravene the rules.

Rights groups say that as a result of the policy thousands of women have been forced by authorities to terminate their pregnancies.


Carter attacks Obama over assassinations and drone attacks

Former president Jimmy Carter has blasted the United States for anti-terror strategies such as targeting individuals for assassination and using unmanned drones to bomb suspected targets, saying they directly flout the basic tenets of universal human rights and foment anti-US sentiment.

In an article written for the New York Times headlined "A Cruel and Unusual Record", Mr Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work trying to resolve conflicts around the globe, suggested that the US is in violation of 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a rare attack by a former commander-in-chief on a sitting President – especially of the same party.

While Mr Carter does not name President Obama, there is little disguising that he is the principle target of his stinging words. Recent weeks have seen a slew of media reports detailing how Mr Obama has grown increasingly dependent on drones to take out suspected terror cells and describing how he has the final word to approve names on a "hit-list" of most-wanted terror suspects overseas for assassination. "Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation's violation of human rights has extended," Mr Carter wrote, concluding that the US is "abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights".

In the past, Mr Carter, 87, has meted out similar criticisms, most notably George W Bush. This latest assault is embarrassing for Mr Obama as it will serve as a reminder that he specifically pledged to adjust America's posture in the war on terror. He began by banning interrogation techniques he considered to be torture, such as water-boarding, and by closing down Guantanamo Bay. On the latter, of course, he has failed to deliver.

It is poignant, moreover, that both men are Peace Prize winners. Critics believe Mr Obama has proved himself unworthy of the honour which he received soon after taking office. His supporters believe however that he has pre-empted criticism of his foreign policy performance. Under his watch, Osama bin Laden has been killed and much of the top echelons of al-Qa'ida have been gutted.


Confrontation With TSA Agent Leaves Grandpa's Ashes On Floor

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man's attempt to bring the ashes of his grandfather home to Indianapolis ended with an angry scene in a Florida airport, with the ashes spilled on the terminal floor.

John Gross, a resident of Indianapolis' south side, was leaving Florida with the remains of his grandfather -- Mario Mark Marcaletti, a Sicilian immigrant who worked for the Penn Central Railroad in central Indiana -- in a tightly sealed jar marked "Human Remains."

Gross said he didn't think he'd have a problem, until he ran into a TSA agent at the Orlando airport.

"They opened up my bag, and I told them, 'Please, be careful. These are my grandpa's ashes,'" Gross told RTV6's Norman Cox. "She picked up the jar. She opened it up.

"I was told later on that she had no right to even open it, that they could have used other devices, like an X-ray machine. So she opened it up. She used her finger and was sifting through it. And then she accidentally spilled it."

Gross says about a quarter to a third of the contents spilled on the floor, leaving him frantically trying to gather up as much as he could while anxious passengers waited behind him.

"She didn't apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments. I couldn't pick up all, everything that was lost. I mean, there was a long line behind me."

TSA rules say a crematory container in carry-on baggage must pass through the X-ray machine at the security checkpoint.

But the agency's own website says human remains are to be opened under, “no circumstances.”

"I want an apology,” said Gross. “I want an apology from TSA. I want an apology from the lady who opened the jar and laughed at me. I want them to help me understand where they get off treating people like this."


Who would have guessed that here in America we would have to suffer these indignations. It's like every ones a nigger now.

Turkey: Nato should view Syria as attacking it

ANKARA: Turkey said Monday it would push Nato to consider Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the whole military alliance.

The announcement came on the eve of a meeting by Nato’s governing body to discuss the incident. Despite deep frustration among many Nato countries over the conflict in Syria, where the opposition says President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has killed 14,000 people, it’s highly unlikely the military alliance will take armed action against the Arab state.

The unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down a mile (1.6 kilometers) inside international airspace on Friday, and two Turkish pilots are still missing, the Turkish government says.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also said for the first time that Syrian forces had opened ground fire on a CASA search and rescue plane shortly after the downing, but did not say if that plane was hit.

Arinc said Turkey retained its right to ”retaliate” against what he called a ”hostile act,” but he added, ”We have no intention of going at war with anyone.”

Turkey will push Nato to consider the armed attack under Article 5 in a key alliance treaty, Arinc said. Article 5 states that an attack against one Nato member shall be considered an attack against all members.

The North Atlantic Council — which includes ambassadors of the 28 Nato countries — works by consensus and all members must approve any action. The meeting Tuesday comes after Turkey requested it under Article 4 of the treaty, which allows a Nato ally to request such a consultation if it feels its territorial integrity or security has been threatened.

Asked if Turkey will insist on the activation of Article 5 of Nato, Arinc said, ”No doubt, Turkey has made necessary applications regarding Article 4 and Article 5.”

The prospect of Western military intervention in Syria remains remote, despite all the tough talk.

Such action is unlikely to get the support of either the UN Security Council or the Arab League, and outside intervention without the blessing of both of those bodies is all but unthinkable. And there is little appetite among the Nato countries — of which the US is the largest — for another war in the Middle East.

Arinc further strongly denied Syrian claims that the downed plane was shot by anti-aircraft fire while flying low inside Syrian airspace.
The deputy premier admitted the jet mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace when it was flying at an altitude of 200 feet and at a speed of 300 knots, but said it left the Syrian airspace after warning from Turkish radar operators and that it received no warning from Syrian forces during its five-minute flight inside Syrian territory.

Arinc reiterated Turkey’s insistence that the plane was not spying on Syria but just testing Turkey’s radar capabilities.

”There is no doubt that Syrians deliberately targeted our plane in international airspace,” Arinc said, accusing Syria of acting in a ”cold-blooded” manner.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Spain, Cyprus Request Bailout Aid .

Spain and the small island state of Cyprus formally became the fourth and fifth countries to request aid from the euro zone's bailout funds Monday, extending a casualty list in a protracted regional debt crisis that is threatening to break up the 17-nation currency bloc.

Spain struck an agreement this month with the 16 other euro-area members to ask for as much as €100 billion ($125.7 billion) from European Union bailout facilities, specifically to recapitalize a number of regional banks that have been devastated by the explosion of a real-estate bubble.

Neither Spain nor Cyprus specified Monday how much each will ask for, and Spain didn't provide new details on conditions that are likely to be attached, according to a copy of the request sent by the Finance Ministry. However, it said it hopes to complete an agreement on terms by July 9.

Two external consultancies hired to estimate the banks' actual capital needs have put them at no more than €62 billion.

Both the government and the International Monetary Fund have argued vehemently for the aid to go directly to the banks, rather than being channeled through a Spanish government that can ill afford to add to its debts.

Markets have worried that any new euro-zone assistance would create a new class of debt senior to the bonds currently outstanding. That has led them to demand bigger premiums for holding Spanish debt, making it even more difficult for the country to tap markets.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Spanish bond rose to 6.59% Monday from 6.19% on Friday.

Spanish assets took a fresh beating Monday, before Moody's Investors Service lowered its long-term ratings on 28 Spanish banks by one to four notches. The IBEX 35 index shed 3.7%, pulled down by losses in local banking stocks. Moody's cut Spain's sovereign-debt rating by three notches on June 13.

"Doubts about the preferred nature of this [euro-zone] debt persist," Spanish Deputy Finance Minister Fernando Jiménez Latorre said at a news conference. "In coming weeks, these doubts will be resolved."

Germany and others have objected that giving the aid directly to banks would give them less control over how the funds are used, and argue that it isn't allowed by the bailout funds' current charters.

Officials such as EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn say it would be weeks before a final deal can be agreed between Spain on the one side,and the European Commission, the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank on the other.

Spain's banking problems have transformed the scale of the euro zone's debt crisis: the Spanish economy is larger than that of the other four casualties—Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus—put together, but markets have judged that even such a large economy doesn't have the wherewithal to fix things—not least because one in four of the workforce is officially unemployed.

The government had only belatedly bowed to the inevitable.

"With this step, Spain has tried to contribute as much as possible to the re-establishment of confidence in the euro zone," Premier Mariano Rajoy said Monday.

While Cyprus's woes are small by comparison, they, too, are a painful reminder of the excesses of the government and private-credit booms that have led the euro zone to its current state.

As with Spain, Cyprus's request for assistance had been long expected. It comes after weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with Russia for a loan similar to a €2.5 billion one that kept it afloat at the end of last year.

"The purpose of the required assistance is to contain the risks to the Cypriot economy, notably those arising from the negative spillover effects through its financial sector, because of its large exposure in the Greek economy," the Cyprus government said.

Eurogroup President and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker later said the Eurogroup would mandate the European Central Bank and the European Commission to negotiate conditionality for the aid.

He hinted that an element of budget financing would be included in the package, saying it would only "primarily" address the challenges of the financial sector.

Cyprus Popular Bank PCL—Cyprus's second-biggest bank—has asked the government to recapitalize it after the bank was hit by a €3.65 billion loss stemming from Greece's recent €200 billion debt restructuring.

The bank also has been facing mounting nonperforming loans in Greece—as well as in Cyprus—as the Greek economy grinds through a fifth year of recession.

The government's support will cost it at least €1.8 billion, or 10% of expected gross domestic product this year, blowing the government's deficit-reduction plans hopelessly off course.

Cypriot Finance Ministry staff said they expect the total financing needs to come to €10 billion, but one official said: "The European Commission will crunch the numbers and decide the amount."

Cyprus's government debt is now rated as junk by all three of the world's major ratings firms.On Monday, Cyprus lost its last investment-grade credit rating when Fitch Ratings cut its assessment of the country by one notch to double-B-plus from triple-B-minus.

Fitch said the capital shortfall in the banking system alone could reach €6 billion, or 33% of GDP.

One of the biggest problems for Cyprus is that its financial sector is so large relative to its underlying economy, thanks to the huge amount of foreign money—much of it Russian—it has attracted with a regime of light taxation and regulation. The foreign liabilities of the banking sector were more than three times the size of annual output at the end of 2011.


I am going to invest my money on ink, paper, and the spare parts for printing presses.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

WATCHDOGS: Solons worry Medicare billions going to Castro, Cuba

Two U.S. senators and a representative worry that billions of tax dollars could be going to Cuba and other foreign countries via criminal schemes designed to defraud Medicare and Medicaid.

The schemes often involve the use of “nominees,” individuals who are paid to be fronts for the actual owners of corporate entities being used in the fraudulent operation. By concealing the identities of true owners, the approach invites its use to funnel tax dollars out of the country.

In a letter made public yesterday to Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and Tom Coburn, R-OK, were joined by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-IL, said they fear billions of tax dollars are being lost annually as a result.

“Clearly, the program vulnerabilities that facilitate billions of dollars to be stolen from the Medicare program each year also allow for some of that money to be funneled to foreign countries,” the three congressmen said.

“While the fraud itself is unacceptable, the loss of American dollars to foreign countries because of flaws in our system is totally unacceptable. The American people deserve the peace of mind to know that federal officials are doing everything they can to safeguard taxpayers’ dollars and the Medicare program.”

“Thus far, it does not appear that CMS has addressed the concept of nominee owners, false storefronts, and shell companies in any of its enrollment regulations or its Provider Screening statement of work,” they said.

Earlier this week, federal officials in Miami charged Oscar Sanchez in connection with a criminal operation that resulted in an estimated $31 million going to Cuban banks.

“Prosecutors say Oscar Sanchez, 46, was a key leader in a group that funneled $31 million in Medicare dollars into banks in Havana — the first such case that directly traces money fleeced from the beleaguered program into the Cuban banking system,” the Miami Herald reported Monday.

“Most of the money moved through an intricate web of foreign shell companies before ending up in Cuba, to avoid being detected in the United States, said investigators,” the Herald said.

Also earlier this week, federal officials announced the capture of two other individuals who had been involved in multi-million dollar frauds with overseas connections. In one, Irina Shelikhova was arrested Monday at JFK Airport in New York when shetried to re-enter the country from the Ukraine.

“From approximately March 2005 until July 2010, Shelikhova and her co-conspirators allegedly paid cash kickbacks to Medicare beneficiaries to induce them to receive unnecessary physicians’ services, physical therapy, and diagnostic tests at the medical clinics,” according to the Inspector-General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The co-conspirators created fraudulent medical records for these beneficiaries and then filed false claims with Medicare for these medical services, which either were never provided or were not medically necessary,” the HHS IG said.

Shelikhova and her co-conspirators are believed to have defrauded Medicare of as much as $70 million.

In the second case, federal officials arrested Miguel Cabello last week when he attempted to re-enter the country through Champlain, New York.

Cabello fled the country to Cuba in July 2008 after being indicted on health care fraud charges. “Cabello submitted approximately $2.1 million in fraudulent Medicare claims on behalf of south-Florida-based OB Pharmacy, Inc., and he received approximately $1.3 million in Medicare payments,” according to the HHS IG.

“Before Cabello’s involvement, OB Pharmacy, a durable medical equipment company that specialized in aerosol medications, submitted $151,572 in Medicare claims and was paid approximately $58,653.

“Around April 2008, Cabello became vice-president of OB Pharmacy. Investigators have concluded that OB Pharmacy submitted claims to Medicare for services that were not rendered, including approximately 10 claims for deceased beneficiaries.

“Investigators interviewed physicians who stated that they did not know the OB Pharmacy patients in question nor did they prescribe the medication purportedly provided to them.”

In their letter to Tavenner, Hatch, Coburn and Roskam cited a University of Miami report that quoted a former Cuban intelligence officer saying there are “strong indications” that the Castro government aids Medicare fraud, especially in South Florida, and provides safe harbor for individuals involved in those efforts.

“If confirmed, this indicates that Medicare program dollars are not only funding international criminal syndicates, but may be helping prop up the Castro government,” the congressmen said.

Back in April, Hatch and Coburn were joined in another letter to Tavenner by representatives Charles Boustenay, R-LA, and Wally Herger, R-CA, on the nominees issue, and expressed concern then that the problem was not being addressed.

The HHS IG “has expressed concerns regarding the use of nominee owners and recommended that CMS take aggressive action to identify them,” they wrote. “Thus far, it does not appear that CMS has addressed the concept of nominee owners, false storefronts, and shell companies …”

Washington Examiner

Friday, June 22, 2012

Civilians Killed as Taliban Take Hostages in Kabul Hotel

At least a dozen Afghan civilians were killed in a large-scale insurgent attack on a lakeside hotel on the outskirts of Kabul Friday morning, officials said.

While the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the Nato-led foreign mission blamed the Haqqani network and, indirectly, Pakistan.

Four Taliban militants equipped with suicide vests and rifles stormed the hotel Spoghmai at Lake Qargha late Thursday evening, one of the busiest nights for the hotel's restaurant.

They initially killed the two guards at the gate, took some 40 civilians hostage in a siege which lasted about 12 hours, and ultimately killed as many as 12 other Afghan civilians.

The last group of 13 civilians was rescued at 11am on Friday, 12 hours after the Taliban launched the attack, said Kabul police chief General Ayub Salangi.

Of the four gunmen, one blew himself up and the other three were killed by security forces, according to officials.

While the Taliban publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) blamed its offshoot, the Haqqani network, and also pointed a finger at Pakistan.

"Afghan National Security Forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violate Afghan sovereignty from the safety of Pakistan,” Isaf commander General John Allen said in a released statement.

The Taliban's statement said Nato and foreign embassies personnel, along with their Afghan colleagues, were staying at the hotel - a place, the Taliban said, used for “prostitution and parties”.

It was later determined that no foreigners were at the hotel at the time, which is frequented by middle class Afghans.

Afghan forces launched a pre-dawn operation on Friday to deal with a hostage-taking situation.

"We have to be careful and move smartly to ensure civilians aren't hurt," Gen Salangi told TOLOnews earlier.

TOLOnews reporter Wali Arian, who was at the scene, said the whole area was cordoned off from the early morning. Foreign troops were also deployed, and Isaf helicopters were flying overhead, but the operation was carried out by the Afghan forces.

"It's a pure civilian target," said Ahmad Samim, who owns a food shop by the lake. "The area is not popular for foreigners at all, especially for staying overnight. I am sure the Taliban understand that."

Several people, including women and children, were injured in the attack. One wounded woman, who didn't want to be named, told TOLOnews that she didn't think she would survive the attack.
Some Afghans have seen this incident as a shift in both the Taliban's military tactics and broader goals.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack saying in a statement released by his office that it "proves the defeat of the enemy".

Afghan blogger Ahmad Shuja said it was "a turning point".

"The rationale from the Taliban sounds awfully like what they used for their notorious vice and virtue police during the glory says of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The only difference is, this attack is more sinister and has large-scale terrorist aims," Shuja posted on his blog.


Syrian military says it downed Turkish fighter jet

The Syrian military has said it shot down a Turkish plane "flying in airspace over Syrian waters", according to state-run news agency Sana.

"[The jet] was dealt with in accordance with the laws that govern such situations," a military spokesman said.

Turkey had earlier said it believed that one of its F-4 fighter jets had been shot down by Syrian forces.

A search for the two crew members is under way, involving Turkish and Syrian coast guard ships.

The F-4 Phantom disappeared over the Mediterranean, south-west of Turkey's Hatay province, near the Syrian coast.

The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 while it was flying over Hatay, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.

A Syrian military spokesman told Sana that an "unidentified target" had broached Syrian airspace from a westerly direction at 11:40 local time (08:40 GMT) on Friday.

The target was flying at high speed and at low altitude, the spokesman said.

Anti-aircraft defences had hit the plane with artillery, bringing it down in the sea off the coast of Latakia province, 10km (six miles) from the village of Um al-Tuyour, he added.

"It later became clear the target was a Turkish military plane which had entered our airspace," he continued.

'Decisive response'
Earlier on Friday evening, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a two-hour emergency meeting with his interior, defence and foreign ministers and the Chief of the General Staff, Gen Necdet Ozel.

Mr Erdogan's office said that Turkey would respond decisively once all the circumstances were established.

Given the breakdown in relations between the two countries over the Syrian conflict, this incident has the potential to provoke a serious crisis, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul reports.

Much will depend on whether or not the Turkish pilots have survived, our correspondent says.

If not, public anger might push the government into some kind of punitive action against Syria, he adds.

Relations between Nato-member Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the violence across the border into Turkey.

Aleppo violence

Inside Syria, the violence continued on Thursday with state media reporting that "armed terrorist groups" had abducted and massacred 25 villagers in Aleppo province.

Activists said that rebels had shot dead 26 government supporters who were believed to be militiamen.

In Aleppo city, activists said a number of people died when security forces opened fire on a demonstration after Friday prayers.

Meanwhile, international envoy Kofi Annan has said it is time for the world to exert greater pressure to help bring the violence in Syria to an end.

Mr Annan called for Iran to be involved in attempts to end the violence, a proposal put forward by Russia but rejected by the US.

In a separate development, the BBC has learned that UK government officials have decided to prevent the head of the Syrian Olympic Committee, Gen Mowaffak Joumaa, from travelling to London for the Games.

The visa ban is believed to be linked to his relationship to President Bashar al-Assad's government.


Putin is going to start WWIII to help O get re-elected!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Iraq parliament speaker threatens to oust premier

BAGHDAD (AP) - The speaker of Iraq's parliament declared Thursday that lawmakers are prepared to oust the nation's prime minister if he refuses to share authority with his political opponents and break a deadlock that has all but paralyzed the government.

The threat by the speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, a leader in the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya political coalition, counters a claim last week by Iraq's president that there is not enough support in parliament to call a vote to push Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from power.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, al-Nujaifi said he personally believes al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, should step down from the job that he barely won after national elections in 2010 failed to produce a clear winner.

Since then - and particularly after U.S. troops left Iraq last December - critics have accused al-Maliki of sidelining his political opponents and violating agreements to share power within a unity government.

The political deadlock has all but brought Iraq's government to a standstill so far this year.

Bickering between the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad and the self-rule Kurdish region in Iraq's north threatens to stunt vital foreign investment in the country's lucrative oil industry.

Provinces with majority Sunni populations have threatened to create their own autonomous regions. Political lethargy, combined with red tape, has delayed improvements in many areas, including the nation's electricity system, job creation and rooting out government corruption.

The deadlock has continued against a backdrop of sporadic but deadly bursts of violence: 120 Iraqis have been killed over the last 10 days alone in bombings mostly targeting Shiite pilgrims and security officials across Baghdad and beyond.

"This is a dangerous matter that if continued would lead to catastrophic consequences," al-Nujaifi said as parliament prepared to return to work after a six-week recess.

He said al-Maliki would be summoned for questioning in front of parliament within days. "And if there is a parliament majority that is not convinced with the results of the questioning, then the no-confidence vote will take place," al-Nujaifi said. He called the process "an attempt to put the country on the right track again."

In April, heeding complaints from his followers, hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met with Sunni and Kurdish leaders in what was widely viewed as a summit to plot al-Maliki's ouster. But on Thursday, al-Sadr released a statement on his website saying "he tends not to intervene" in such matters.

Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, said a preliminary count of lawmakers who want al-Maliki to step down fell four short of the 163 votes needed to force the issue. Al-Nujaifi denied that, saying that while a few lawmakers backed off, "the number is still enough."

Responding, the prime minister's media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, said al-Maliki will answer parliament's questions and respects his opponents' rights to call for the no-confidence vote. "But we are confident that they will fail to secure the needed ... votes," al-Moussawi said Thursday.

Al-Maliki also has called for a special session of parliament to address lawmakers in public, said Safa al-Din al-Safi, the state minister for parliament affairs. A date for that session has not yet been set.

Al-Nujaifi also said he, too, would step down if enough lawmakers voted to expel him - a process he said was firmly guaranteed under Iraq's constitution.

"Iraq has efficient and qualified people and figures who can lead Iraq and who can take Iraq into a new horizon," he said. "Now we are in severe political crisis and we hope to get out of it."


Sweden on alert, explosives found near nuke plant

Sweden ramped up security at its three nuclear power plants Thursday after a small amount of explosives without a triggering device was found on a forklift on the grounds of the country's largest atomic power station, authorities said. Police were investigating possible sabotage, but insisted that even if there had been a blast it would not have posed any great danger.

Bomb-sniffing dogs detected the explosives in a routine check Wednesday afternoon by security staff in the power plant's industrial area near its high-security enclosure. Police declined to describe the amount or type of explosive.

Bomb technicians said the material lacked a detonating device, meaning there was no danger of an imminent explosion.

"But even if it would have been equipped with a detonator, a potential blast would have had pretty limited effects — the truck would have received some damage and perhaps some passers-by would have been injured, but it wouldn't have harmed the plant in any way," police spokesman Tommy Nyman said.

With police providing little information, a terror expert speculated it might have been an attempt to test the security system of the Ringhals power plant with a later attack in mind.

Four nuclear reactors are at Ringhals, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Sweden's second-largest city, Goteborg, which has a population of 550,000 people. The plant is controlled by energy companies Vattenfall and E.ON.

Police said the driver of the forklift truck had been unaware of the explosives and was not suspected of being involved. Nyman said authorities had no suspects and were searching the premises to see if there was more suspicious material.

"An outsider has obviously placed them on the truck," Nyman said. "We're talking to the truck driver and are trying to map out her movements within the (Ringhals) premises throughout the day."

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said the explosive material was found "en route from the Ringhals industrial park into a protected area ... and did not enter the facility."

The government declined to comment, saying it was a police matter.

Martina Kruger, head of the Climate and Energy Division at Greenpeace in the Nordic region, said that even though the explosive material lacked a detonator, the incident was extremely serious, showing how vulnerable nuclear plants are for potential attacks.

"It doesn't matter if it was outside the protected area or not, it shouldn't have made itself within the premises at all," she said, accusing authorities and plant operators of playing the incident down.

Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said the incident unlikely was a planned attack.

"They never got into the security area. It seems very strange that they tried, knowing that security would be high and also that they used explosives that could be detected by a dog," Norell said. "To me that indicates that it's not very professional."

But he said that someone might have been testing the systems.

"It could suggest that someone was testing it to do something serious later on. But it's all pure speculation right now as we have so little information," he said. "It shows the (security) system did work. They picked up on it and nothing happened. That's one good signal."

Security at Swedish nuclear plants has also been criticized. In 2010, Greenpeace activists broke into the Forsmark power plant site by climbing a fence and staging a demonstration there. Twenty-nine Greenpeace activists from Germany, Poland, Britain, France and the Nordic countries were convicted and fined.

Kruger, of Greenpeace, said that it did not look like the incident was the work of environmental terrorists.

"I find that very hard to believe. Especially in this sort of way," she said. "If environmentalists would have wanted to test the system, they might have used a toy gun or something, but they never would have crossed the line and go on to use something as real as this."

The Swedish nuclear industry has come under fire for the lack of some safety precautions while operating the reactors. Last year, a fire broke out in a Ringhals reactor after the staff had left a vacuum cleaner in the containment building.

Sweden has 10 nuclear reactors at the country's three power plants: Ringhals, Forsmark and Oskarshamn — providing about half of the country's electricity.

The country has a four-stage security risk scale for the plants, with four representing the highest security alert.

Ringhals was rated at one — situation "normal" — but after the incident, the nuclear authority said it raised the security alert by a notch to 2, on a four-grade scale, meaning that security has been increased at all the plants.

In 1980, the Nordic country decided to phase out the use of nuclear energy after Swedes voted for that in a referendum. But two years ago, the center-right government overturned that decision, citing the lack of viable long-term environmentally friendly alternatives, a move that paved the way for old reactors to be replaced by new ones.

Ringhals is Sweden's largest power plant, producing 28 Terawatt-Hours a year, or supplying around 20 percent of the country's electricity.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sat Pic Offers Enticing Shot Of What May Be Secret Lockheed Drone

OK. Let's get this out in the open. Neither you nor I are likely to learn the truth about the image of that thing that might be a plane under the white covering.

But there's this website called Open Source Geoint and it has published a satellite image of one of the most secret defense plants in the country, the Air Force's Plant 42, where a handful of the top defense companies build some of the country's most highly classified aircraft and sensors.

Plant 42 houses highly classified facilities where a number of contractors, including, most famously, Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, do work for the military and the intelligence community. The Skunk Works is where the U-2 spy plane and the F-117 stealth fighter were built.

The image in the satellite photo may, or may not, show the outlines of a previously unknown aircraft. My colleague Dave Majumdar, who writes Flight Global's the Dew Line, speculates that this aircraft "looks a lot like a RQ-170, but bigger..." He postulates that it may be a P.420, a larger plane than the so-called Beast of Kandahar. [Note to those who wonder why we build things like the RQ-170. It was able to provide important help to the team that killed Osama Bin Laden without being detected by Pakistani radar.]

Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, remarkably, issued a statement:

"Lockheed Martin Skunk Works often experiments with different shapes and materials for both manned and unmanned vehicles. What you see in the satellite image is one of those projects," said Melissa Dalton, their spokeswoman.

Dalton declined to identify the aircraft pictured, saying the "details are proprietary."

Dave, who is a bit obsessed with planes -- in a good way -- found a patent for a plane that might look like whatever is under the white protective covering in the photo. Or perhaps it's a modified RQ-170 being outfitted for more Iranian surveillance. Or maybe it's -- oh, never mind.

If you know what this image actually shows, you know how to reach us.

Now, cue spooky music from The X Files. And remember: the truth is out there. [But we'll probably never know it!]