Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U.S. Cuts Police Training, Downsizes Iraq Mission

The United States has slashed a signature Iraqi police training program as it downsizes its massive diplomatic mission amid high costs and negative Iraqi sentiment, a U.S. watchdog said on Monday.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a report on an audit it conducted that the United States had wasted some $206 million on building facilities for the Police Development Program (PDP), which a top Iraqi interior ministry official has termed "useless."

The U.S. State Department "is wisely reducing the PDP's scope and size in the face of weak... support" from Iraq's interior ministry, SIGIR said, noting that it was originally conceived as a five-year, multi-billion dollar program, the State Department's largest worldwide.

As of this month, the number of in-country advisers was reduced to 36 -- 18 in Baghdad and 18 in Kurdish regional capital Arbil, down from 85 advisers in January, SIGIR said, and compared to an initial plan for 350 advisers.

But the reduction in the PDP's scope means that millions of dollars have been wasted.

The State Department constructed training and housing facilities at the Baghdad Police College Annex for an estimated $108 million, while another $98 million was used to construct the Basra consulate so it could be used for training, according to SIGIR.

But the State Department "decided to close the (Baghdad Police College Annex) facility, just months after the PDP (Police Development Program) started, due to security costs and program revisions," SIGIR said.

And the Basra consulate "will not be used because the (Iraqi interior ministry) decided to terminate training at that location," it added.

"This brings the total amount of de facto waste in the PDP -- that is, funds not meaningfully used for the purpose of their appropriation -- to about $206 million."

The report also said that in May 2012, Iraq's senior deputy interior minister, Adnan al-Assadi, told SIGIR the PDP was "useless" and that his department did not need the large numbers of PDP advisers present in the country.

"He also indicated that Iraqi police officers had expressed their opinion that the training received to date was not beneficial," SIGIR said.

"Along with Iraqi disinterest, security concerns also affected the program. The embassy's Regional Security Office deemed it unsafe for advisers to travel to Iraqi-controlled facilities in Baghdad on a frequent basis."

SIGIR noted that 94 percent of PDP operational program costs go to "security and life and mission support."

And it said the State Department "has found it difficult to sustain the planned U.S. personnel levels in Iraq because of the costs (estimated to be $6 billion annually) and the increasingly negative Iraqi reaction to such a large U.S. diplomatic presence."

The State Department is working to decrease the size of its diplomatic mission in Iraq, the largest in the world.

A SIGIR quarterly report to the U.S. Congress released on Monday said that there were 1,235 U.S. government civilian employees and at least 12,477 employees of U.S.-funded contractors or grantees in Iraq as of late June and early July, respectively.

The number of U.S. government civilian employees is down 10 percent compared with the previous quarter, while the contractors and grantees have been reduced by about 26 percent, from 16,973 on April 1, SIGIR said.

The watchdog also said the State Department has announced the closure of the U.S. consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

The U.S. has other consulates outside of Baghdad, in the southern port city of Basra, and in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.


Saudi spy chief Prince Bandar assassinated, report says

Saudi Arabian spy chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been assassinated, a report says.

The Paris-based Voltaire Network confirmed the death of 63-year-old Prince Bandar on its website on Monday, citing unofficial sources.

The international non-profit organization, which publishes a free website (voltairenet.org) in eight languages, said that Prince Bandar was killed because of his role in the July 18 deadly bombing in Damascus.

The bombing killed at least four high-profile Syrian security officials, including Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha and his deputy Assef Shawkat who was also President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law.

However, there has been no confirmation or denial neither from Saudi officials nor from the Syrian government yet.

Bandar, who was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, was named the kingdom’s Secretary General of the National Security Council in 2005. On 19 July 2012, he was appointed Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency by King Abdullah.

Many said his promotion was a reward for the role he played in organizing the attack in Damascus, the organization reported.


That would at least explain the gitteres I see out there.

President Vladimir Putin’s cruel tyranny is driven by paranoia

Apologists for the Kremlin are struggling. The Russian regime’s dogged defence of the blood-drenched Syrian dictatorship, and its persecution of the Pussy Riot musicians for their stunt in Moscow’s main cathedral, display its nastiest hallmark: support for repression at home and abroad.

Mr Putin’s return to power has eclipsed the liberal-sounding talk of his predecessor as president, Dmitry Medvedev. Russia’s leader has in recent weeks signed laws that criminalise defamation, introduce £6,000 fines for participants in unauthorised demonstrations, require non-profit outfits financed by grants from abroad to label themselves as “foreign agents”, and create a new blacklist of “harmful” internet sites.

Now comes the prosecution of Pussy Riot, a bunch of feminist performance artists made famous by their imprisonment and show trial. Their “crime” was to record a brief mime show at the altar of the cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They then added anti-Putin “music” (featuring scatological and blasphemous slogans) to suggest that they had actually held a concert there.

Many might find that in bad taste and would accept that police can arrest those using a holy place for political protest. But the three women on trial (who all deny involvement) have been in custody since March. They face up to seven years in prison on a charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility”. It all smacks of a grotesque official over-reaction and the growing and sinister influence of the Orthodox hierarchy.

Also a distant memory is Russia’s “reset” with America, which was supposed to herald a new era of cooperation. Since Mr Putin’s return, Russia’s foreign-policy rhetoric has been venomously anti-Western. It recently warned Finland, with startling bluntness, to stop working with Nato. The hostility is still largely a one-way street. Western companies grovel before Mr Putin (he recently kept oil-industry chiefs waiting for hours in an airless room with no chairs; they uttered not a squeak of complaint).

Western governments largely ignore what their intelligence services tell them: that the regime in Moscow is a criminal syndicate, fuelled by a noxious ideology of paranoia and supremacy. But in public, politicians such as David Cameron bow and scrape to Mr Putin, hoping for a few crumbs of trade and investment. The West is far too cash-strapped to stand up to Russia, and the Kremlin knows it.

Yet Russia’s support for Syria can seem almost incomprehensible. Why risk such opprobrium in a doomed cause? The answer is the same as in the case of Pussy Riot. For all its contempt for the West, Russia’s regime also feels cornered by it. It sees the opposition at home, and pro-democracy movements abroad, as part of the same threat. Mr Putin does not want to share the fate of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya – or, closer to home, the Ukrainian leadership toppled by the “Orange revolution” of 2005.

Its policy is not so much support for the regime in Damascus, as opposing Western attempts to overthrow it. Though it may seem ludicrous, many in Moscow believe that if Syria falls, Russia is the next target.

The policies that follow from this paranoia make Mr Putin’s plight worse, not better. Repression undermines the regime’s legitimacy. In the early years of Mr Putin’s first reign, many Russians were tolerant of its authoritarianism (and corruption). They welcomed the stability brought by his ex-KGB colleagues and their business cronies and the new-found sense of national pride.

But that has given way first to apathy and then alienation. Arbitrary behaviour increasingly infuriates the urban middle classes. The death in prison of a whistle-blowing lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in 2009 has become a cause célèbre for the smart, English-speaking professional classes who used to affect disdain for politics.

The persecution of Pussy Riot may do the same for a younger and grungier generation. Scorn and mockery of Mr Putin and his cronies is rife. Political humour – a mainstay of resistance in the Soviet era – is back.

But the more the regime denounces its foes as foreign puppets, the less persuasive its propaganda appears. Its business model is in trouble too: the gas price has plummeted thanks to the rise of America’s shale-gas industry. The oil market may be heading in the same direction. For a regime that survives by collecting and distributing the windfall gains of its mining industries, that is ominous news.

It is hard to see a way out for Mr Putin. Many of those around him know that change is needed: more openness, more legality, more choice. But they fear what it would mean. Opposition politicians, media and prosecutors, if unleashed, would feast on the regime’s past misdeeds. Tens of billions of dollars have disappeared into offshore bank accounts. Dozens of people have died mysterious deaths. The cupboards are packed with skeletons. Opening up Russia’s political system risks them falling into public view.

The regime is dropping even the pretence of liberalisation. Instead – as the Pussy Riot trial exemplifies – it appeals to ignorance, prejudice and superstition. The Russian Orthodox Church, far from offering an alternative to the greed and bullying, complements it.

Russia’s neighbours are right to worry about the country’s direction. But as so often in the past, it is Russians themselves who will suffer most at their rulers’ hands.


The "let then eat cake" crowd is shocked!!

If the Syrian civil war looks ugly, can you imagine the coming Russian?

China: Romney lacks Mideast facts

China’s official press agency slammed Mitt Romney for asserting that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, saying his remarks “totally neglect historical facts” and could even “reignite” a war with Palestinians.

“U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is likely to worsen the already tense Mideast situation, and even reignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis,” the Xinhua news agency wrote in an editorial Tuesday.

“Romney’s remarks totally neglect historical facts and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home,” the agency continued, saying his “radical words were intended to win the support of U.S. Jewish voters.”

Romney said during his visit to Israel that Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and suggested he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem if he were president, which enraged Palestinian officials.

The editorial said such a move, “if translated into action, will cause international concern.”

“On these key issues, every serious politician should watch out for his or her words, especially those from the United States,” it added.


Makes you wonder which horse China has in that race?

And like the war ever ended?? There were rockets just the other day Romney, no Romney.

12-year-old tased inside Victoria's Secret

South St. Louis County (KSDK) - A police officer tased a 12-year-old girl inside a Victoria's Secret Wednesday afternoon at South County Center.

Police say the officer came into the Victoria's Secret looking for the teenager's mom, who had warrants for her arrest. But it was the teen who got tased.

"This one goes in my chest. It was stuck in there so she had to keep on pulling trying to pull it out," said Dejamon Baker, as she pointed to a small wound on her chest.

Baker has a matching wound on her stomach.

"I had fell on the floor and I couldn't control myself I just kept on shaking and stuff," said the girl.

Baker, her mother Charlene Bratton, and some other relatives were in the Victoria's Secret.

Bratton had just tried on some shorts and was about to buy them when she says a St. Louis County officer came looking for her. Bratton had warrants, she says, for numerous unresolved traffic tickets.

"He said, put your hands behind your back. I said for what. Next thing you know he tackled me down on the ground," said Bratton.

Baker said, "I was just crying. I guess he got mad because I was crying or something, then he just took it out and just tased me."

A police spokesman says the officer stated the girl was physically getting involved and would not back away, but Dejamon and her mother deny that.

"He should have had enough control to tell her to get back instead of pulling out his gun, I guess he was nervous or whatever, and tasing people," said Bratton.

The police spokesman says he believes the officer's actions were justified, but he admits it's a unique situation.

He suggests the mother report the incident to internal affairs to have in investigated.

The mother says that's what she plans to do.


I have to wonder if a parent were to taser a child if it would be considered child abuse?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book bombshell: Obama canceled Bin Laden ‘kill’ raid three times at Jarrett’s urging

At the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission, according to an explosive new book scheduled for release August 21. The Daily Caller has seen a portion of the chapter in which the stunning revelation appears.

In ”Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him,“ Richard Miniter writes that Obama canceled the “kill” mission in January 2011, again in February, and a third time in March. Obama’s close adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to hold off each time, according to the book.

Miniter, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, cites an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.

Obama administration officials also said after the raid that the president had delayed giving the order to kill the arch-terrorist the day before the operation was carried out, in what turned out to be his fourth moment of indecision. At the time, the White House blamed the delay on unfavorable weather conditions near bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

But when Miniter obtained that day’s weather reports from the U.S. Air Force Combat Meteorological Center, he said, they showed ideal conditions for the SEALs to carry out their orders.

“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.

Another chapter, he told TheDC, concerns the push to pass the Affordable Care Act. The president, Miniter said, was less interested than then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in passing his own signature legislative achievement.

Osama bin Laden steered the global operations of the al-Qaida terror network until his death last year at the hands of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six. The president and his surrogates have made the terrorist leader’s death a focal point in Obama’s re-election campaign, painting Obama as a decisive leader who took down America’s greatest mortal enemy.


Is that worse than outing the doctor and killing all those children?

Iraqi official says Kurds in secret weapons deal

BAGHDAD: A high-ranking Iraqi official yesterday said security agencies have uncovered a secret weapons deal between the autonomous Kurdistan region and an unnamed foreign country. “Iraqi security agencies (discovered) a secret weapons deal between the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Massud Barzani, and a foreign country,” the security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The weapons include anti-armor and anti-aircraft missiles, and a large number of heavy weapons,” the official said, without specifying the exact weapons systems.
The official said Iraqi authorities have obtained “all the documents” pertaining to the deal, which is for “weapons of a Russian type made in 2004,” and are trying to block it. “This step is a breach of the law and the Iraqi constitution, because the only side that can (buy arms) is the federal ministry of defense,” the official said.
Several Kurdish officials either declined to comment on the allegation or could not immediately be reached by AFP.
For its part Baghdad has ordered 36 F-16 warplanes from the United States, and has already fielded M1 Abrams tanks.
Barzani expressed concern over the F-16s earlier this year, saying he was opposed to the sale of these warplanes while Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki was in office, fearing they would be used against Kurdistan.
On July 17th, Umeed Sabah, spokesman for the Kurdistan region presidency also said in a statement that Maliki had “plans for the militarization of Iraqi society and supports the option of violence as a means to reach political aims.”
Relations between Baghdad and Kurdistan are at a low ebb over multiple festering disputes.
The two sides are at odds over Kurdistan’s refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, and over a swathe of disputed territory in north Iraq.
Barzani has also supported efforts to pass a no-confidence motion against Maliki.
And on Wednesday local Kurdish peshmerga security forces prevented soldiers sent by Baghdad from reaching a disputed north Iraq area that borders Syria, a top Kurdish security official said.

Arab News

Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria

As they stood outside the commandeered government building in the town of Mohassen, it was hard to distinguish Abu Khuder's men from any other brigade in the Syrian civil war, in their combat fatigues, T-shirts and beards.

But these were not average members of the Free Syrian Army. Abu Khuder and his men fight for al-Qaida. They call themselves the ghuraba'a, or "strangers", after a famous jihadi poem celebrating Osama bin Laden's time with his followers in the Afghan mountains, and they are one of a number of jihadi organisations establishing a foothold in the east of the country now that the conflict in Syria has stretched well into its second bloody year.

They try to hide their presence. "Some people are worried about carrying the [black] flags," said Abu Khuder. "They fear America will come and fight us. So we fight in secret. Why give Bashar and the west a pretext?" But their existence is common knowledge in Mohassen. Even passers-by joke with the men about car bombs and IEDs.

According to Abu Khuder, his men are working closely with the military council that commands the Free Syrian Army brigades in the region. "We meet almost every day," he said. "We have clear instructions from our [al-Qaida] leadership that if the FSA need our help we should give it. We help them with IEDs and car bombs. Our main talent is in the bombing operations." Abu Khuder's men had a lot of experience in bomb-making from Iraq and elsewhere, he added.

Abu Khuder spoke later at length. He reclined on a pile of cushions in a house in Mohassen, resting his left arm which had been hit by a sniper's bullet and was wrapped in plaster and bandages. Four teenage boys kneeled in a tight crescent in front of him, craning their necks and listening with awe. Other villagers in the room looked uneasy.

Abu Khuder had been an officer in a mechanised Syrian border force called the Camel Corps when he took up arms against the regime. He fought the security forces with a pistol and a light hunting rifle, gaining a reputation as one of the bravest and most ruthless men in Deir el-Zour province and helped to form one of the first FSA battalions.

He soon became disillusioned with what he saw as the rebel army's disorganisation and inability to strike at the regime, however. He illustrated this by describing an attempt to attack the government garrison in Mohassen. Fortified in a former textile factory behind concrete walls, sand bags, machine-gun turrets and armoured vehicles, the garrison was immune to the rebels' puny attempt at assault.

"When we attacked the base with the FSA we tried everything and failed," said Abu Khuder. "Even with around 200 men attacking from multiple fronts they couldn't injure a single government soldier and instead wasted 1.5m Syrian pounds [£14,500] on firing ammunition at the walls."

Then a group of devout and disciplined Islamist fighters in the nearby village offered to help. They summoned an expert from Damascus and after two days of work handed Abu Khuder their token of friendship: a truck rigged with two tonnes of explosives.

Two men drove the truck close to the gate of the base and detonated it remotely. The explosion was so large, Abu Khuder said, that windows and metal shutters were blown hundreds of metres, trees were ripped up by their roots and a huge crater was left in the middle of the road.

The next day the army left and the town of Mohassen was free.

"The car bomb cost us 100,000 Syrian pounds and fewer than 10 people were involved [in the operation]," he said. "Within two days of the bomb expert arriving we had it ready. We didn't waste a single bullet.

"Al-Qaida has experience in these military activities and it knows how to deal with it."

After the bombing, Abu Khuder split with the FSA and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida's organisation in Syria, the Jabhat al Nusra or Solidarity Front. He let his beard grow and adopted the religious rhetoric of a jihadi, becoming a commander of one their battalions.

"The Free Syrian Army has no rules and no military or religious order. Everything happens chaotically," he said. "Al-Qaida has a law that no one, not even the emir, can break.

"The FSA lacks the ability to plan and lacks military experience. That is what [al-Qaida] can bring. They have an organisation that all countries have acknowledged.

"In the beginning there were very few. Now, mashallah, there are immigrants joining us and bringing their experience," he told the gathered people. "Men from Yemen, Saudi, Iraq and Jordan. Yemenis are the best in their religion and discipline and the Iraqis are the worst in everything – even in religion."

At this, one man in the room – an activist in his mid-30s who did not want to be named – said: "So what are you trying to do, Abu Khuder? Are you going to start cutting off hands and make us like Saudi? Is this why we are fighting a revolution?"

"[Al-Qaida's] goal is establishing an Islamic state and not a Syrian state," he replied. "Those who fear the organisation fear the implementation of Allah's jurisdiction. If you don't commit sins there is nothing to fear."

Religious rhetoric
Religious and sectarian rhetoric has taken a leading role in the Syrian revolution from the early days. This is partly because of the need for outside funding and weapons, which are coming through well-established Muslim networks, and partly because religion provides a useful rallying cry for fighters, with promises of martyrdom and redemption.

Almost every rebel brigade has adopted a Sunni religious name with rhetoric exalting jihad and martyrdom, even when the brigades are run by secular commanders and manned by fighters who barely pray.

"Religion is a major rallying force in this revolution – look at Ara'our [a rabid sectarian preacher], he is hysterical and we don't like him but he offers unquestionable support to the fighters and they need it," the activist said later.

Another FSA commander in Deir el-Zour city explained the role of religion in the uprising: "Religion is the best way to impose discipline. Even if the fighter is not religious he can't disobey a religious order in battle."

Al-Qaida has existed in this parched region of eastern Syria, where the desert and the tribes straddle the border with Iraq, for almost a decade.

During the years of American occupation of Iraq, Deir el-Zour became the gateway through which thousands of foreign jihadis flooded to fight the holy war. Many senior insurgents took refuge from American and Iraqi government raids in the villages and deserts of Deir el-Zourx.

Osama, a young jihadi from Abu Khuder's unit with a kind smile, was 17 in 2003 when the Americans invaded Iraq, he said. He ran away from home and joined the thousands of other Syrians who crossed the porous border and went to fight. Like most of those volunteers, at first he was inspired by a mixture of nationalistic and tribal allegiances, but later religion became his sole motivation.

After returning to Syria he drifted closer to the jihadi ideology. It was dangerous then, and some of his friends were imprisoned by the regime, which for years played a double game, allowing jihadis to filter across the borders to fight the Americans while at the same time keeping them tightly under control at home.

In the first months of the Syrian uprising, he joined the protesters in the street, and when some of his relatives were killed he defected and joined the Free Syrian Army.

"I decided to join the others," he said. "But then I became very disappointed with the FSA. When they fought they were great, but then most of the time they sat in their rooms doing nothing but smoke and gossip and chat on Skype."

Fed up with his commanders' bickering and fighting over money, he turned to another fighting group based in the village of Shahail, 50 miles west of Mohassen, which has become the de facto capital of al-Qaida in Deir el-Zour. More than 20 of its young men were killed in Iraq. In Shahail the al-Qaida fighters drive around in white SUVs with al-Qaida flags fluttering.

The group there was led by a pious man. He knew a couple of them from his time in Iraq. One day, the group's leader – a Saudi who covered his hair with a red scarf and carried a small Kalashnikov, in the style of Bin Laden – visited Mohassen. He gave a long sermon during the funeral of a local commander, telling the audience how jihad was the only way to lead a revolution against the infidel regime of Bashar al-Assad, and how they, the Syrians, were not only victims of the regime but also of the hypocrisy of the west, which refused to help them.

"They were committed," said Osama. "They obeyed their leader and never argued. In the FSA, if you have 10 people they usually split and form three groups." The jihadis, by contrast, used their time "in useful things, even the chores are divided equally".

Osama joined the group. "He [the Saudi] is a very good man, he spends his days teaching us. You ask him anything and he will answer you with verses from the Qur'an, you want to read the Qur'an you can read. You want to study bomb-making he will teach you."

In the pre-revolutionary days when the regime was strong it would take a year to recruit someone to the secret cause of jihad. "Now, thanks to God, we are working in the open and many people are joining in," said Osama.

In Shahail we interviewed Saleem Abu Yassir, a village elder and the commander of the local FSA brigade. He sat in a room filled with tribal fighters and machine-guns. The relationship with al-Qaida had been very difficult, he said, with the jihadis being secretive and despising the FSA and even calling them infidel secularists. But now they had opened up, co-operating with other rebel groups.

"Are they good fighters?" he threw the question rhetorically into the room. "Yes, they are, but they have a problem with executions. They capture a soldier and they put a pistol to his head and shoot him. We have religious courts and we have to try people before executing them. This abundance of killing is what we fear. We fear they are trying to bring us back to the days of Iraq and we have seen what that achieved."

Osama had told me that his group was very cautious about not repeating the Iraq experience – "they admit they made a lot of mistakes in Iraq and they are keen to avoid it", he said – but others, including a young doctor working for the revolution, were not convinced. The opposition needed to admit Al-Qaida were among them, and be on their guard.

"Who kidnapped the foreign engineers who worked in the nearby oilfield?" he asked. "They have better financing than the FSA and we have to admit they are here.

"They are stealing the revolution from us and they are working for the day that comes after."



A federal court in Washington, DC, held last week that political appointees appointed by President Obama did interfere with the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the New Black Panther Party.

The ruling came as part of a motion by the conservative legal watch dog group Judicial Watch, who had sued the DOJ in federal court to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to the the New Black Panthers case. Judicial Watch had secured many previously unavailable documents through their suit against DOJ and were now suing for attorneys’ fees.

Obama’s DOJ had claimed Judicial Watch was not entitled to attorney’s fees since “none of the records produced in this litigation evidenced any political interference whatsoever in” how the DOJ handled the New Black Panther Party case. But United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton disagreed. Citing a “series of emails” between Obama political appointees and career Justice lawyers, Walton writes:

The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decision-making.

In sum, the Court concludes that three of the four fee entitlement factors weigh in favor of awarding fees to Judicial Watch. Therefore, Judicial Watch is both eligible and entitled to fees and costs, and the Court must now consider the reasonableness of Judicial Watch’s requested award.

The New Black Panthers case stems from a Election Day 2008 incident where two members of the New Black Panther Party were filmed outside a polling place intimidating voters and poll watchers by brandishing a billy club. Justice Department lawyers investigated the case, filed charges, and when the Panthers failed to respond, a federal court in Philadelphia entered a “default” against all the Panthers defendants. But after Obama was sworn in, the Justice Department reversed course, dismissed charges against three of the defendants, and let the fourth off with a narrowly tailored restraining order.

“The Court’s decision is another piece of evidence showing the Obama Justice Department is run by individuals who have a problem telling the truth,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “The decision shows that we can’t trust the Obama Justice Department to fairly administer our nation’s voting and election laws.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post reported that the decision was released today. It was released last week.


Get in your Olympic seat within 30 minutes or lose them: Jeremy Hunt unveils plan to ensure sell-out crowds

Spectators who fail to take their seats within 30 minutes of the start of an Olympic event could lose them under plans being considered by Games organisers.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new rule was being explored after many events began in half-empty stadia as sponsors and delegates failed to show up.

In an attempt to pack venues, London 2012 organisers Locog have taken some 3,000 Olympics tickets from international sporting federations and put them 'back in the pot' to be bought by members of the public.

Locog, which has already drafted in troops, teachers and schoolchildren to fill gaps in the crowds, hopes to continue offering tickets for resale as the Games progress.

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's The World At One that a possible 30-minute rule was being considered.

He said: 'Well that's what we're looking at doing.

'We're looking at whether we are able to do it, but we are hosting this event under a contractual arrangement that we have with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and sports federations and so we do have to respect what we've agreed to contractually in order to get London to host the Games.'

Mr Hunt added: 'What we're saying to the IOC and to the international sports federations is if you're not going to use them, could we have as many possible back because of course we've got lots of members of the public who would dearly love to go.

'We want to be completely upfront with the public, this is a negotiation, we don't have a right to demand these back.

'In fact contractually these seats do belong to the international sports federations and to the IOC, but we got 3,000 back last night, including 600 for the gymnastics.'

David Cameron said he 'totally shared the frustration' of spectators who failed to get tickets only to see hundreds of seats set aside for accredited officials remain empty as they did not show up.

'To be frank there will always be some empty seats because you have to make some available to the teams of athletes, sportsmen and officials from around the world,' the Prime Minister said.

'There will always be a slight problem but I think Locog are doing everything they can to make sure those empty seats are used where possible.'

Mr Cameron was speaking as the row over ticketing at the Olympics escalated after it emerged parents of athletes are being turned away from half-empty Games venues.

Parents and friends of swimmers are said to have been refused entry to the Aquatics Centre, while relatives of tennis players have been unable to see matches at Wimbledon.

Similar problems have been reported at Eton Dorney for the rowing and the ExCel boxing venue, where parents have only been allowed entry after drawn-out negotiations.

Details of the mix-up emerged as organisers began handing school children front-row seats in a desperate bid to fill venues.

A senior IOC member, Gunilla Lindberg, complained that the issue had become chaotic and distracting for many athletes.

Relatives and friends of Swedish and Singapore swimmers are known to have been refused entry, but the problem is thought to have affected competitors from other countries as well.

'It is so confusing for everyone,' Ms Lindberg told the Daily Telegraph. 'Parents keep calling the athletes, no one knows where the tickets are and it is not very good preparation for the athletes to be so stressed about it.

Ms Lindberg said the problem appeared to have been caused by a glitch in the system used to allocate tickets to athletes' relatives.

She added: 'This is chaos, no one knows about the system.

'But I don't know how it is going to be sorted as it is so complex and this is the first Games this programme has been used.'

Locog said the system entitled every Olympic competitor to two tickets for each sesson in which they take part.

The body's director of sport, Debbie Jevans said extra facilities were being opened to make it easier for athletes' families to obtain tickets.

Mr Hunt's proposal came after London Mayor Boris Johnson hinted that ministers had discussed 'how to crack the ticketing problem' during a meeting at the Cabinet Office.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, Locog's director of communications, said the body was talking to accredited groups, including broadcast media, to see if they can release some tickets.

'Where we can we are going to release those the night before and put them up for sale.

'Three thousand went up for sale last night and they have all been sold this morning.'

She said the number of seats given up depended on the sport, and in some situations also depended on security arrangements, but in those cases, they had contingency plans involving giving seats to troops or students and teachers.

'Everybody is giving up what they can and it is session by session so some sessions, for example of beach volleyball we have had returns of probably about 300 to 400 this morning, but for the evening sessions and the afternoon sessions it's less.

'We are literally doing it session-by-session.'

Asked if they had 'got it wrong', she said: 'We are trying everything we can to make sure that those accredited seats are filled where we can.

'There are operational issues that make it difficult to fill some of those seats which is why we are making them available to the troops and to the teachers and the children.

'We had a plan in place for the teachers and the children over a year ago that we employ. There's 150 children and teachers on the park today, that's only for the park, we will increase that to about 300 to 400 tomorrow.

'We really are doing the best we can, but it's not an exact science as we saw with swimming last night and basketball and the American match yesterday.'

Resale tickets are available for sale online only, and box offices are only for collecting tickets.

Ms Brock-Doyle said there had been 'lots of conversations over the years' with each of the accredited groups, and where they had been able to take tickets back from people such as the Press, they had.

She also told the briefing at the Olympic Park that no international sports federations had 'just said no' to requests for accredited tickets to be given back.

'Everybody gave a little bit back, we probably got the most back from gymnastics,' she said.

Pupils at Clapton Girls Academy in East London have had the 20 free tickets they received before the Games began upgraded to front-row seats.

The girls sat courtside during the Brazil versus Australia men's basketball game.

Teacher Kitty Fox said: 'I think it is fantastic that they are giving any available and unused seats to schoolchildren.

'We have been told that if the people who have paid for the front row seats do turn up then we might have to move along. But so far that hasn’t happened.

'We are just enjoying the fact we have got the chance to witness so many sports.”

Ms Fox, a PE teacher, went on: 'The girls are all keen sportswomen and are chuffed to be here.

'When they found out the girls were absolutely ecstatic, some of them wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

'So far we have been court side at the basketball and caught some handball games.

'We are given seats to whatever events need seats filling, so it is kind of pot luck.

'It has been really exciting - one minute we are watching men's water polo, the next women’s basketball.

'Hopefully this experience will inspire the girls to go out and achieve sporting success.'

About 50 seats previously classed as restricted view and unoccupied during the first two days of the badminton at Wembley Arena were filled today by members of the RAF and Army security teams.

Apart from two other rows of restricted-view seats, the 4,800-capacity venue has been close to full for all sessions.

Sir Clive Woodward, Team GB’s deputy chef de mission, told the BBC: 'I was in Beijing and, to put it in perspective, I was going to tennis matches and hockey matches in Beijing where there was nobody there.'

He added: 'You can see it doesn’t look right, but I feel a bit for Locog as well because they’re trying to keep everyone happy.

'I can see how it looks and you feel for the people at home who’d love to be there.

'I know they’re working on it. As we speak now they’re trying to work out ways of trying to fix it.'

Locog yesterday began an investigation into the fiasco as it emerged prized Olympic tickets entrusted to foreign delegations are being openly sold by touts on the streets of Britain.

Touts are cashing in on the huge demand for seats by selling tickets sent overseas by Games organisers.

Last night Scotland Yard said every illegal seller arrested so far had held tickets despatched overseas to national committees and official re-sellers.

One of the touts held is from Germany, another from Slovakia.

The discovery raises further questions about the way in which precious tickets are allocated by the International Olympic Committee.

And it will frustrate millions of British sport fans who have been left watching events on TV because they failed to get a seat in last year’s ballot.

Shadow Olympics Minister Dame Tessa Jowell praised Lord Coe for announcing plans to make more seats available to frustrated fans angry at officials and sponsors who have not used their allocation.

'We’ve got to get people into those seats today, tomorrow and the next day,' she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'I think the measures Seb Coe announced yesterday go quite a long way into that, together with the recycling of tickets for people who are already in the park.

'This is very important for the confidence of the British public.'

Dame Tessa said the International Olympic Committee should work with Locog to unlock tickets for genuine fans eager to glimpse a slice of the action.

She added: 'They own the Games, they have got to be part of the solution to this particular problem of the sporting federations and these accredited seats remaining empty.

'However, we can’t wait for that medium-term resolution.'

Former Labour sports minister Kate Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall in south London, said she was 'glad' that ways to fill the empty seats were being explored.

She said: 'There are definitely lots of really, really good community sports clubs all over London, very, very near, with great people who, at the drop of a hat, could get their youngsters there and those youngsters are people who would never, ever have got a ticket.

'They wouldn’t even know what a Visa card was to get a ticket in the first place.

'We’ve already offered the names of some people who have these links in with the grass roots and that could happen very, very easily.

'I think what they have done is probably allocated too many to each international Olympic committee and that could be changed pretty quickly.'

Ms Hoey added: “The important thing is to get the seats filled with people, but if we can get some youngsters who would never have had the chance to get in, let’s go for it.'


Someone owes Mitt an apology, like all the networks...they did not notice all the empty seats?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Iran leader: Stop exporting oil, make new economy

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's supreme leader has outlined a new approach to overcome Western sanctions - stop selling oil and build knowledge-based industries instead.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's says what he calls a "resistant economy" can effectively counter the sanctions.

This month the European Union enforced a ban on oil imports from Iran, after the U.S. stepped up its banking sanctions.

The sanctions aim to force Iran to stop enriching uranium. The West suspects Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.

Khamenei said Iran should stop selling raw materials, including oil, and instead promote "knowledge-based companies which can make a resistant economy more sustainable."

He gave no timetable or details of what would amount to a total overhaul of Iran's economy.

Khamenei's remarks were broadcast on state TV Sunday night.


Nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia as much a danger as Israel

Following reports about Saudi Arabia’s attempts to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan, a political analyst says an “archaic, kleptomaniac and totalitarian” Riyadh armed with nukes is as much a danger as Israel.

“Saudi Arabia is as much a danger as Israel. Its stunted development means that it will always have aggressive feelings towards more successful societies and, in particular, it is terrified of any expression of democracy. It has already occupied Bahrain and Wikileaks revealed the Saudi desire to attack Iran,” Rodney Shakespeare wrote in an article.

Shakespeare emphasized that Saudi Arabia, “which has no depth of culture, no political legitimacy, [and] no technological success,” feels threatened by the political, cultural and technological progress of Iran.

Describing the Saudi regime as “archaic, kleptomaniac and totalitarian” which has no place in the Modern world, Shakespeare added that, “Despite vicious suppression, democratic forces are stirring and have even reached the capital, Riyadh, where protesters [are] shouting slogans against the Saudi regime.”

“Saudi Arabia, of course, is also a player of the sectarian card considering Shias as inferior, even non-Muslim. Playing the sectarian card is mad arrogance which will rebound on Saudi Arabia some day.”

Citing German intelligence reports about Wahhabis committing Houla Massacre of over one hundred people in May 2012 in Syria, Shakespeare said Saudi Arabia is exporting bigotry and viciousness and sending terrorists to Syria.

“We must hope that the Americans - who indulge the Saudis in their every whim and cruelty - will have the sense to stop Saudi Arabia from getting the atom bomb,” he concluded.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Syrian rebels survive regime onslaught in Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) - The Syrian government launched an offensive Saturday to retake rebel-held neighborhoods in the nation's commercial hub of Aleppo, unleashing artillery, tanks and helicopter gunships against poorly armed opposition fighters.

Yet after a day of fighting, the rag-tag rebel forces remained in control of their neighborhoods in Syria's largest city, said activists, suggesting they had successfully fought off the government's initial assault.

The international community has raised an outcry about a possible massacre in this city of 3 million but acknowledged there was little they could do to stop the bloodshed. The foreign minister of Russia, a powerful ally of Syria, said it was "simply unrealistic" for the Syrian regime to cede control.

The state-controlled al-Watan newspaper celebrated the assault with a banner headline proclaiming the fight for Aleppo "the mother of all battles."

The rebels are estimated to control between a third and a half of the neighborhoods in this sprawling city, especially a cluster in the northeast around Sakhour neighborhood and in the southwest.

They began their attempt to wrest this key city from the government's control a week ago. About 162 people have been killed, mostly civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which does not include soldiers in its toll. Some 19,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, estimated the group.

For Saturday, activists estimate that at least two dozen have died so far in the day's fighting.

Local activist Mohammed Saeed said the rebels have managed to keep the regime's tanks at bay so far with rocket-propelled grenades.

"The army hasn't been able to take any neighborhoods yet, there are too many from the Free Syrian Army," Saeed said, referring to the rebels.

He estimated that about 1,000 fighters had poured into the city in the past few days to take on the Syrian army, which had been massing forces around the city ahead of its attack.

By the end of Saturday, according to the Observatory, the government appeared to have pulled back from its ground offensive and was resuming its bombardment of various neighborhoods with artillery. Attack helicopters pounded rebel positions.

There were few details about the attack in the state press, although it issued a long list of victories across the country against the "terrorists," as the rebels are referred to, a sign of widespread fighting.

The international community has expressed growing concern that there could be major bloodshed if Syrian troops retake Aleppo. But Western nations and their allies have found themselves powerless to prevent the situation from deteriorating despite a series of diplomatic efforts, including a cease-fire agreement that never took effect.

Kofi Annan, who brokered the agreement, expressed concern Saturday about the weapons buildup in Aleppo. "I remind the parties to the conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, and urge them to exercise restraint and avoid any further bloodshed."

In a statement, the Arab League expressed "deep dissatisfaction for the Syrian regime's acts of oppression," particularly the use of heavy weapons against its own people. It urged Syria "to stop the cycle of killing and violence and lift the siege off the Syrian neighborhoods under attack."

The group's deputy chief, Ahmed Ben Hali added that the Arab states were preparing a resolution in front of the United Nations General Assembly calling for the creation of safe havens to protect civilians and to apply further sanctions on the regime.

Measures passed in the General Assembly are largely symbolic and not binding. The West and its Arab allies have been unable to pass effective resolutions in the more powerful Security Council. China, and especially Syria's close ally, Russia, have vetoed any attempt to sanction Bashar Assad's regime.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday called the bloodshed in Aleppo a tragedy, but asked what else could the government do against the rebellion.

"Now the city of Aleppo is occupied by the armed opposition; another tragedy is imminent there," he said. "How can it be hoped that in such a situation the government will simply give in, say 'Okay, I wasn't right, overthrow me, change the regime - it's simply unrealistic."

Russia has been a key source of support for Syria, although Moscow officials in recent months have said they are simply taking a more even-handed approach while the West offers support to the rebels.

French President Francois Hollande even chided Russia and China on Saturday, asking them to "take into consideration ... that it will be chaos and civil war if at some moment Assad isn't stopped."

It's been a difficult two weeks for the Syrian government, with assaults on its two main cities, a bomb that killed four top security officials and a string of high-profile defections.

The country's military apparatus, though, has remained intact and continues to crush the opposition's remnants in Damascus and its outskirts.

If they really try to make a stand in Aleppo, the rebels risk being annihilated by superior firepower, and may instead withdraw to preserve their forces as they did in Damascus last week.

Italy welcomed Friday's release of two Italian electrical engineers, who had been captured eight days ago by militants.

Domenico Tedeschi and Oriano Cantani, who worked on power plants, told reporters in Damascus that they had been kidnapped by five or six masked men who intercepted their car as they drove to the airport. They were later rescued by the Syrian army.

Amid the fighting, three Syrian athletes took part in the first day of competition in London's Olympic games in swimming, shooting and boxing.

All were defeated, including Wessam Slama, a bantam weight boxer who was one of Syria's better medal hopes.

The team's leader, Maher Khayata, whose family is currently trapped by the fighting in Aleppo, said their thoughts were always on the situation at home.

"We would like to return with an Olympic medal," he told The Associated Press, "but what we want more is to return to our homeland with the news that fighting has stopped and nobody is being killed anymore."


GDP: U.S. economic growth slowed to 1.5% in last 3 months

American consumers cut back sharply on spending in recent months, slowing the nation’s already sluggish rate of economic growth.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.5 percent from April through June, the Commerce Department reported Friday, a pace that confirmed fears that the economy continues to sputter.

A growth rate below 2 percent isn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 8.2 percent last month. And few analysts expect the economy to gain momentum in the second half of the year, as concern about debt problems in Europe and the fiscal cliff — a series of tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect in January unless policy makers find an alternative — dampen confidence.

The estimated rate of economic growth in the second quarter marked the weakest quarterly gross domestic product reading since last fall and promises to sharpen the scrutiny on President Obama’s fiscal policies.

The campaign of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney seized on the tepid number Friday morning, saying it was indicative of the president’s poor economic stewardship.

“It’s very disappointing for the future of the economy,” R. Glenn Hubbard, Romney’s top economic adviser, said on CNBC. “It’s about half of what potential growth actually is in the American economy, and recoveries should be much more vigorous even after financial crises.”

Obama administration officials said the economy was being hurt by the fiscal turmoil in Europe and the decline in spending from local and state governments. “Our economy continues to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but there is much more work to be done,” said acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank.

She and other Obama administration officials said Congress should act on the president’s jobs proposal, which would invest in infrastructure, hire more state and local government workers, double the payroll tax cut and offer new tax cuts for small businesses. Republicans have blocked the initiative, saying they oppose a tax surcharge on millionaires to pay for the measure.

The GDP report said growth in consumer spending — which accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity — slowed to an annualized rate of 1.5 percent in the second quarter, down from 2.4 percent in the first three months of the year. Automobile sales slowed from the first quarter, and spending on durable goods was down 1 percent, after being up sharply in the first three months of the year. The savings rate, which was pegged at 3.6 percent for the first quarter, bumped up to a 4 percent rate between April and June.

The report also included revised growth estimates for the past three years. The new estimates showed that the economy shrank by 3.1 percent in 2009, slightly less than the 3.5 percent previously reported. Growth in 2010 was 2.4 percent, down from 3 percent, and growth in 2011 was 1.8 percent instead of 1.7 percent.

The Commerce Department also said that the economy in the first three months of 2012 grew slightly more than previously reported, raising its estimate to a 2 percent rate, from 1.9 percent.

Economists speculated that the continued weak GDP growth — which has averaged 2.2 percent since the recovery began three years ago — would spur the Federal Reserve to take further action to lower long-term interest rates in hopes of stimulating the economy.

“GDP growth for 2012 is at risk of undershooting the Federal Reserves already subdued expectations,” Ryan Wang, U.S. economist for HSBC, wrote in a note to investors. “. . . Growth will need to average 2.6 percent in the second half of the year for the Fed’s projection to be met. If policymakers feel this pace of growth is no longer likely, they may decide to pursue further monetary easing.”


You did not build that...the road did it.

Pentagon, Lockheed agree on Israeli F-35s

The Pentagon has reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin Corp on a $450 million program to enhance electronic warfare equipment on the F-35 fighter jet, and integrate Israeli-unique systems beginning in 2016, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

The deal, to be finalized in coming weeks, marks a big step forward for Israel’s $2.75 billion agreement to buy 19 F-35 jets, which was signed in October 2010 and includes options for up to 75 of the radar-evading fighters.

The Pentagon said the Israeli foreign arms sale could be worth up to $15.2 billion if all options are exercised, when it first approved the sale in September 2008.

“This agreement kicks off the Israeli program,” said one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “Now all of the agreements are in place.”

The F-35 will allow for even greater collaboration in the coming years with Israel, a critical strategic ally for the United States at a time when much of the Middle East is in turmoil. The deal comes as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta prepares to visit Israel next week where he will discuss heightened tensions with Iran, which on July 26 underscored its support for Syria despite its brutal crackdown on a 16-month uprising.

It also provides a vote of confidence in the embattled F-35 program, whose cost and technology challenges have overshadowed a year of progress in flight testing.

Lockheed and its subcontractors are building the stealthy warplane for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps along with Britain and seven other co-development partners -- Italy, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Daily News

Friday, July 27, 2012

Syrian troops kill 6-year-old fleeing into Jordan

RAMTHA, Jordan (AP) - The family crept across farmland under night's cover, heading for the border, when Syrian troops opened fire. Bullets whizzed around them as they broke into a mad dash, survivors say. The 6-year-old boy, holding his mother's hand, broke away and ran ahead. He nearly made it into Jordan when he fell dead, a bullet in his neck.

The boy, killed in the early hours Friday, was the first Syrian shot to death by border guards while trying to escape into neighboring Jordan from the bloodshed of their homeland's 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar Assad. The slaying underlined not only the dangers of the passage, but the fine line Syria's neighbors have to tread in trying to help Syrians while avoiding being dragged into the conflict.

Bilal el-Lababidi and his parents were in a group of around a dozen Syrians trying to sneak into Jordan just after midnight, the latest of more than 140,000 Syrians who have taken refuge in the kingdom.

"He is a martyr who is now in a better place. I'm sure he is in heaven," said el-Lababidi's mother before the boy's burial later Friday at a cemetery in the northern Jordanian city of Ramtha. She made it across with her two younger sons - but her husband fled back amid the shooting.

"The criminal Bashar is the reason," she said, slapping her face with her fists as she wept. She wore a veil over her face and a traditional Muslim head-to-toe robe. "Bashar is killing his people and the whole world is watching and doing nothing." She would only identify herself as Umm Bilal, or "mother of Bilal," as conservative women often do in public rather than using their real names.

The family - Bilal's father, mother and their three sons- were fleeing from their southern Syrian hometown of Daraa, which was where their country's uprising began 17 months ago and which has continued to be a major battleground between rebels and regime forces. Bilal's father is a corporal in the regime military but had decided to defect, the mother said.

They and the others in the group were slipping across farmland and olive groves between the Syrian town of Tal Shihab, near Daraa, and the Jordanian border village of Turrah. The two towns are only about a mile (1.6 kilometers) apart at their closest point. The border running between them is marked only by a ditch with an old rusty string of barbed wire running down it - unmaintained and full of gaps, more of a marker than a barrier.

Their group made their way to about 50 yards (meters) from the ditch, their path dimly illuminated by a half-moon and the lights of nearby Turrah. That's when Syrian troops opened fire, and the refugees broke into a run, Umm Bilal said.

The Syrian troops emerged from behind nearby trees and began shooting, said two members of the Syrian rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, who helped organize the group's escape and later spoke with those who made it across.

The soldiers sprayed the area with bullets, according to a Jordanian border officer and a relative of Bilal who made it into Jordan with his mother. Jordanian guards on their side of the border fired in the air to try to scare off the Syrian troops, the Jordanian officer said.

"Bullets were coming from all directions. It was scary," said the relative, a frail man who sported a long beard and who spoke on condition he not be identified for fear of retaliation against the family in Syria. "I didn't know if one hit me and I couldn't look back to see if the others were wounded."

Bilal was running with his mother, the relative said. But then Bilal "slipped from his mother's hand" and went ahead and was shot just yards (meters) from the border ditch, he said.

Umm Bilal said the Jordanians took her son in and tried to save him, "but he was already dead."

Bilal's father and most of the others in the group ran back into Syria amid the gunfire, Umm Bilal said.

The Jordanian border official said he believed that amid the firing, the boy was specifically targeted because he was closest the fence. "It looks like a sniper targeted him to scare the others," the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The whole shooting appeared to be an ambush by the Syrian troops, who were likely tipped off to the escape plan by an informer in Daraa, said the two FSA members who helped organize the dash for the border. They noted that the troops were waiting behind the trees for the group. The two FSA members, one of whom was now hosting Umm Bilal and her two surviving sons at a house in northern Jordan, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity over their group's presence in the kingdom.

Syrian army troops frequently fire at those trying to cross the border to stop them, but not always - it depends on whether they are busy with quelling protests or rebels in nearby towns, the Jordanian border official said. Around 700 Syrians crossed on Thursday with no shots fired at them.

Last November, one woman was shot in the leg. In April, troops fired at a large group of around 900 refugees, wounding dozens, many of whom - including women - were then arrested and taken back into Syria.

But el-Lababidi is the first person to be killed, the border official and other Jordanian officials said. An FSA commander based in Turkey who monitors the border movements into Jordan, Ahmed Kassem, also said the boy was the first killed.

Jordan has been trying not to be dragged into what is now a civil war in Syria. In Amman, Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah insisted that Friday's shooting "will not draw Jordan into Syria's crisis."

"This unfortunate incident is an internal Syrian matter," he told The Associated Press.

Jordan had been even reluctant to set up the tents camps near the border that house most of the Syrian refugees, possibly to avoid angering Assad's autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught. While Syria's rebels are present among the refugees and buy weapons in Jordan's black market, they must lie low and the government says it gives them no support.

Syria has been one of Jordan's largest Arab trade partners, with bilateral trade estimated at $470 million last year - and Syria is a vital route for Jordanian exports to markets in Turkey and Europe.

Last Sunday, Jordan's king announced that security along his northern frontier has been tightened, but Syrian refugees fleeing violence will still be allowed to enter.

"It is our duty to protect citizens, but at the same time, we have to open our doors to our Syrian brothers, and I'm very optimistic that the situation is moving in the right direction," King Abdullah II said at a Cabinet session.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Milblogger killed on return home from Afghanistan

Army Sgt. Eric E. Williams died Monday in Afghanistan. He was assigned to Company C, 3-82 General Support Aviation Battalion of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

According to North County Times, Sgt. Williams was just starting his long journey home when he came under enemy fire and died.

Williams was also a military blogger who had kept an online journal on Blogspot since 2008.

The blog’s title is called: Eric Williams and can be found at http://myfriendthemedic. blogspot.com/

In his last post published only days day before he was killed he wrote of coming home.

Europe is sleepwalking towards imminent disaster, warn top economists

Europe is “sleepwalking towards disaster”, according to the 17 experts, who warned that over the past few weeks “the situation in the debtor countries has deteriorated dramatically”.

“The sense of a neverending crisis, with one domino falling after another, must be reversed. The last domino, Spain, is days away from a liquidity crisis,” said the economists. They include two members of Germany’s Council of Economic Experts and leading euro specialists at the London of School of Economics, all euro supporters.

“This dramatic situation is the result of a eurozone system which, as currently constructed, is thoroughly broken. The cause is a systemic failure. It is the responsibility of all European nations that were parties to its flawed design, construction and implementation to contribute to a solution. Absent this collective response, the euro will disintegrate,” they added in a co-signed report for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

The warning came as contagion from Spain pushed Italy’s borrowing costs to danger levels, with two-year yields rocketing 40 basis points to more than 5pc. The Milan bourse tumbled 3pc, led by bank shares. Italian equities have been in freefall since it became clear two weeks ago that the EU’s June summit deal had failed to break the nexus between crippled banks and sovereign states.

The crisis is starting to ricochet back into Germany, where the PMI manufacturing index for July fell to its lowest since mid-2009. Doubts are emerging about the creditworthiness of the German state itself.

The giant US bond fund PIMCO said on Tuesday that it would retreat further from the German bond market after Moody’s issued a negative watch on the AAA ratings of Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. “We’re expecting a further ratings downgrade in the future,” said the group.

Moody’s warned that Germany faced the “risk of a shock” from a Greek euro exit and the likely knock-on effects through Spain and Italy, as well the “German banks’ sizeable exposure to most stressed euro area countries”. The warning had no immediate effect on German debt markets. Two-year yields remained below zero due to safe-haven effects.

Moody's cut the outlook on the Eu's bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, to negative from stable on Tuesday night.

The 17 economists said Europe’s political waters have been muddied by disputes over eurobonds, debt-pooling, subsidies and fiscal union. None of this was necessary to break the logjam, they said.

They claimed the system could be stabilised immediately by creating a lender of last resort to back-stop the bond markets, either by mobilising the ECB or by giving the eurozone bail-out fund (ESM) a banking licence to borrow from the ECB.

The deeper problem can then be managed through a European Redemption Fund that takes over a chunk of the “legacy debt” left by the errors of early EMU, much like Alexander Hamilton’s sinking fund in the US to clear up the mess after America’s revolutionary war.

The proposal is based on a plan by the German Council of Experts. Each country puts all debt above the Maastricht ceiling of 60pc of GDP into the fund. Each would be responsible for its own debt but would be able to borrow through joint bonds, raising money on Germany’s credit card.

The debt would be paid off over 20 years, with each state putting up foreign reserves, gold and other collateral to ensure compliance. It is the opposite of fiscal union: the eurozone would return to fiscal sovereignty and, since the liabilities would be fixed and the fund self-liquidating, it would comply with Germany’s constitution.

The authors say such a move would be the “game changer” missing since the crisis began. It would be costly for Germany, but “orders of magnitude” cheaper than the alternative. The German Council of Experts has said the country would suffer €3 trillion (£2.3 trillion) of damage if EMU blows apart, a claim hotly disputed by eurosceptics.

In a veiled rebuke to hard-line politicians in Germany, the economists said the root cause of the crisis has been the boom-bust effect of rampant capital flows over the past decade – not delinquent behaviour by feckless nations. “The extent to which markets are currently meting out punishment against specific countries may be a poor reflection of national responsibility,” they stated.

But they said the current course had become hopeless. Deepening recession is “tearing at the social fabric of the deficit states”.

The lack of any light at the end of the tunnel is leading to a populist backlash in both the debtor and creditor states. The only question is whether the North or the South succumb to revulsion first.


REVEALED: Corzine’s MF Global Was Client of Eric Holder’s Law Firm

Those wondering why the Department of Justice has refused to go after Jon Corzine for the vaporization of $1.6 billion in MF Global client funds need look no further than the documents uncovered by the Government Accountability Institute that reveal that the now-defunct MF Global was a client of Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer’s former law firm, Covington & Burling.
There’s more.

Records also reveal that MF Global’s trustee for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy retained as its general bankruptcy counsel Morrison & Foerester--the very law firm from which Associate Attorney General Tony West came to DOJ.

And more.

As Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer explains in the Washington Times Thursday, the trustee overseeing MF Global’s bankruptcy is former FBI Director Louis Freeh. At Holder’s Senate confirmation hearing Freeh served as a character witness for Holder and revealed that Holder had previously worked for Freeh. “As general counsel,” Freeh said, “I could have engaged any lawyer in America to represent our bank. I chose Eric.”

Until now, the conventional wisdom for why Holder wouldn’t throw the book at Corzine was that Corzine is an Obama campaign bundler. Indeed, as Breitbart News reported, four of the top officials at the Department of Justice--Eric Holder, Thomas Perrelli, Karol Mason, and Tony West--were also big money bundlers for Obama.

But the newly understood crony connections reveal conflicts of interest that extend well beyond mere political support for a common candidate--they go to a tangle of prior business dealings that further underscore the need for a special prosecutor in the Corzine case.

At least 65 members of Congress have already signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate MF Global’s collapse and the loss of $1.6 billion in customer money. What’s more, even progressives have begun to wonder whether Holder’s Covington & Burling connection explains why the Department of Justice has not charged, prosecuted, or jailed a single Wall Street executive after the biggest financial collapse in American history.

As Richard Eskow of the Huffington Post recently wrote:

More and more Washington insiders are asking a question that was considered off-limits in the nation's capital just a few months ago: Who, exactly, is Attorney General Eric Holder representing? As scandal after scandal erupts on Wall Street, involving everything from global lending manipulation to cocaine and prostitution, more and more people are worrying about Holder's seeming inaction -- or worse -- in the face of mounting evidence.

This isn’t going away.

Both the left and the right are onto Holder’s Wall Street head fake. With the revelation of the new crony connections, the time for Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor in the Corzine/MF Global case is now.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NSA whistleblowers: Government spying on every single American

The TSA, DHS and countless other security agencies have been established to keep America safe from terrorist attacks in post-9/11 America. How far beyond that does the feds’ reach really go, though?

The attacks September 11, 2001, were instrumental in enabling the US government to establish counterterrorism agencies to prevent future tragedies. Some officials say that they haven’t stopped there, though, and are spying on everyone in America — all in the name of national security.

Testimonies delivered in recent weeks by former employees of the National Security Agency suggest that the US government is granting itself surveillance powers far beyond what most Americans consider the proper role of the federal government.

In an interview broadcast on Current TV’s “Viewpoint” program on Monday, former NSA Technical Director William Binney commented on the government’s policy of blanket surveillance, alongside colleagues Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe, the agency's respective former Senior Official and Senior Analyst.

The interview comes on the heels of a series of speeches given by Binney, who has quickly become better known for his whistleblowing than his work with the NSA. In their latest appearance this week, though, the three former staffers suggested that America’s spy program is much more dangerous than it seems.

In an interview with “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer, Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”

These powers have previously defended by claims of national security necessity, but Drake says that it doesn’t stop there. He warns that the government is giving itself the power to gather intel on every American that could be used in future prosecutions unrelated to terrorism.

“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger — and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” Drake said.

Although Drake’s accusations seem astounding, they corroborate allegations made by Binney only a week earlier. Speaking at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference in New York City earlier this month, Binney addressed a room of thousands about the NSA’s domestic spying efforts. But in a candid interview with journalist Geoff Shively during HOPE, the ex-NSA official candidly revealed the full extent of the surveillance program.

“Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process,” Binney said.

Drake and Binney’s statements follow the revelation that law enforcement officers collected cell phone records on 1.3 million Americans in 2011. More news articles are emerging every day suggesting that the surveillance of Americans — off-the-radar and under wraps — is growing at an exponential rate.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CBO to employers: Obamacare has $4B more in taxes than expected

Business owners will pay $4 billion more in taxes under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) than the Congressional Budget Office had previously expected.

“According to the updated estimates, the amount of deficit reduction from penalty payments and other effects on tax revenues under the ACA will be $5 billion more than previously estimated,” the CBO reported today. “That change primarily effects a $4 billion increase in collections from such payments by employers, a $1 billion increase in such payments by individuals, and an increase of less than $500 million in tax revenues stemming from a small reduction in employment-based coverage, which will lead to a larger share of total compensation taking the form of taxable wages and salaries and a smaller share taking the form of nontaxable health benefits.”

In short, CBO revised the Obamacare tax burden upward by $4 billion for businesses and $1 billion to $1.5 billion for individual workers.

CBO couldn’t help but bump into Chief Justice John Roberts controversial decision uphold the individual mandate as a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power. The report dubs the individual mandate a “penalty tax” — that is, “a penalty paid to the Treasury by taxpayers when they file their tax returns and enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.”


Iraq attacks kill 110 in deadliest day in 2 years

BAGHDAD (AP) – A startling spasm of violence shook more than a dozen Iraqi cities Monday, killing more than 100 people in coordinated bombings and shootings and wounding twice as many in the country's deadliest day in more than two years.

The attacks came only days after al-Qaeda announced it would attempt a comeback with a new offensive against Iraq's weakened government.

With the U.S. military gone and the government mired in infighting, the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda has vowed to retake areas it once controlled and push the nation back toward civil war. Though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's attacks, nearly all of them struck in the capital and in northern Iraqi cities where al-Qaeda can most easily regain a foothold.

"Terrorists are opening another gate of hell for us," said Kamiran Karim, a sweets-seller in the northern city of Kirkuk, which was hit by five exploding cars throughout the morning. He suffered shrapnel wounds when one of the car bombs blew up about 200 yards from his cart.

So far this summer, militants linked to al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for a steady drumbeat of attacks designed to keep the government off-balance as it works to overcome a power struggle that pits Sunni and Kurdish leaders against the Shiite prime minister. The infighting, which escalated the day after the U.S. military withdrew last December, has all but paralyzed the government and deepened sectarian tensions around the country.

Iraqi and U.S. officials insist al-Qaeda is incapable of sowing the kind of widespread violence that would return Iraq to sectarian warfare. And indeed, Shiite militias so far have held back from returning fire. But Monday's attacks prove al-Qaeda's continued ability to thwart security, undermine the government and create chaos in a fragile democracy that experts fear is headed toward a failed state.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, accused militants of "spreading panic and fear" and urged political parties to resolve their differences and help restore stability.

Many of Monday's attacks were stunning in their scope and boldness. They bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda, happening within a few hours of each other and striking mainly at security forces, government officials and Shiite neighborhoods.

In one brazen assault, three carloads of gunmen pulled up at an Iraqi army base near the northeastern town of Udaim and opened fire, killing 13 soldiers before escaping, two senior police officials said.

In another, a car bomb exploded outside a government office in Sadr City, the poor, sprawling Shiite neighborhood in northeast Baghdad. Sixteen people died.

"The only thing I remember was the smoke and fire, which was everywhere," said Mohammed Munim, an employee at the office who woke up in a nearby emergency room with shrapnel in his neck and back.

The deadliest attack, however, took place just north of Baghdad in the town of Taji, where a double bombing killed at least 41 people. The blasts were timed to hit as police rushed to help victims from a series of five explosions minutes earlier.

The death toll of at least 110 was the worst for a single day in Iraq since May 10, 2010, when a string of nationwide attacks killed at least 119 people. The sheer breadth of Monday's bloodshed harkened back to the bloodiest days of Iraq's sectarian fighting in 2007, when it was common for more than 100 people to die in a day.

It appeared to be the start of a new al-Qaeda campaign in Iraq dubbed "Breaking the Walls," which was announced late last week by the local insurgency's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In a statement issued Saturday on a militant website, al-Baghdadi warned that his Islamic State of Iraq is returning to strongholds that it was driven from by the American military. The Islamic State of Iraq is the formal name for the al-Qaeda linked group.

"The majority of the Sunnis in Iraq support al-Qaeda and are waiting for its return," al-Baghdadi said.

At its peak, al-Qaeda in Iraq brutalized its victims with publicized beheadings, suicide bombings and roadside bombs that targeted the Shiite government, the U.S. military and Iraqi civilians alike. In an attempt to goad Shiite militias to respond, al-Qaeda bombed the revered al-Askari Shiite shrine in Samarra in 2006 — an attack that launched Iraq's descent into more than three years of sectarian fighting.

But the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda was shunned by the worldwide terror network's central leadership, which chided it for killing civilians. The insurgency made a series of other missteps — imposing overly strict Islamic discipline and alienating tribal leaders — that undercut its support in Iraq's Sunni communities and helped lead to the widespread defection of fighters to groups allied with the U.S.

As a result, the flow of funding, arms and fighters slowed to a trickle, and al-Qaeda in Iraq has struggled to command much power.

Baghdad political analyst Hadi Jalo said the insurgency now feels emboldened by the success of the Sunni-dominated uprising in neighboring Syria against Damascus' Alawite rulers. The Alawites are an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

"It is leading a sectarian war, and Iraq is part of its war and ideology in this region," Jalo said.

Since late last year, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has courted Sunni tribal leaders to gain their support. With their help, he's sought to ease the political crisis that has largely broken down along sectarian and ethnic lines. Earlier this month, al-Maliki offered to reinstate former army officers from Sunni provinces who were forced out after the 2003 U.S. invasion because of suspected ties to Saddam Hussein's regime.

But the political stonewalling shows no sign of breaking, and many of Iraq's leaders have left Baghdad during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which began late last week.

Antony J. Blinken, national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, predicted last week that al-Qaeda will fail to lure Iraq back toward war. He said the level of violence in Iraq today is roughly what it was before the invasion.

"Iraq remains, relative to other counties, violent, and the Iraqi people suffer from it," Blinken said in the July 18 briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. "But again, I think it's very important to put all of this in context. Compared to where Iraq was a few years ago, there's been a dramatic change for the better."

Statements like that infuriate some Iraqi leaders who say Washington is helping al-Maliki gloss over Iraq's dire situation.

"Things are not good. Things are bad," Ayad Allawi, the Shiite leader of the secular but Sunni-dominated Iraqiya political coalition said in a July 16 interview with The Associated Press. "The society is split and we don't have a real democracy — we have a mockery."

Bombings and drive-by shootings were virtually unheard-of in Iraq during Saddam's regime, which kept a tight grasp on society through intimidation and threats. But hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shiites were either executed or "disappeared" during Saddam's 24-year rule, targeted because of their political opposition.

Sunnis and Kurds complain they have been either sidelined from real authority in the Shiite-led government or blocked by Baghdad from making lucrative regional business deals. Last month, the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr became the most influential Shiite to join the Sunni-Kurd demand for al-Maliki to resign.

Recent backroom dealing has quieted the recent bickering, and little progress is expected to be made during Ramadan.

However, Monday's attacks made clear that al-Qaeda's plans to continue its operations in what the Interior Ministry called "a flagrant violation" of "the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan."

It was a chilling cause for celebration among jihadists, who quickly went to militant websites and called the wave of violence proof of al-Baghdadi's new campaign.


James Holmes Received $26K Grant From Bethesda-Based National Institutes of Health

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) - James Holmes, the alleged gunman in the recent theater shooting that left 12 dead in Aurora, Colo., was previously awarded a $26,000 federal grant.

WNEW News reports that Holmes was awarded a prestigious grant from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It gave the graduate student a $26,000 stipend and paid his tuition for the highly competitive neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in Denver. Holmes was one of six neuroscience students at the school to get the grant money.

Holmes is expected to be formally charged next Monday. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. Holmes has been assigned a public defender.

Weeks before, Holmes quit a 35-student Ph.D. program in neuroscience for reasons that aren’t clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year but University of Colorado Denver officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

At a news conference, university officials refused to answer questions about Holmes. “To the best of our knowledge at this point, we think we did everything that we should have done,” Donald Elliman, the university chancellor.

The judge has issued an order barring lawyers in the case from publicly commenting on matters including evidence, whether a plea deal is in the works or results of any examination or test performed on someone.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Europe shaken by fear Spain will need full bailout

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Europe is on the brink again. The region's debt crisis flared on Monday as fears intensified that Spain would be next in line for a government bailout.

A recession is deepening in Spain, the fourth-largest economy that uses the euro currency, and a growing number of its regional governments are seeking financial lifelines to make ends meet. The interest rate on Spanish government bonds soared in a sign of waning market confidence in the country's ability to pay off its debts.

The prospect of bailing out Spain is worrisome for Europe because the potential cost far exceeds what's available in existing emergency funds. Financial markets are also growing uneasy about Italy, another major European economy with large debts and a feeble economy.

Stocks fell sharply across Europe and around the world. Germany's DAX plunged 3.18 percent. Britain's FTSE dropped 2 percent and France's CAC 40 fell 2.89 percent. In midday trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.35 percent. The euro slipped just below $1.21 against the dollar, its lowest reading since June 2010.

The interest rate on its 10-year bond hit 7.56 percent in the morning, its highest level since Spain joined the euro in 1999.

Concern over Spain increased Monday after the country's central bank said the economy shrank by 0.4 percent during the second quarter, compared with the previous three months. The government predicts the economy won't return to growth until 2014 as new austerity measures hurt consumers and businesses.

On top of that, Spain is facing new costs as a growing number of regional governments ask federal authorities for assistance. The eastern region of Valencia revealed Friday it would need a bailout from the central Madrid government. Over the weekend, the southern region of Murcia said it may also need help.

Spain has already required an emergency loan package of up to (EURO)100 billion ($121 billion) to bail out its banks. But that aid hasn't quelled markets because the government is ultimately liable to repay the money. It had been hoped that responsibility for repayments would shift from the government to the banks. But that shift is a long way off - a pan-European banking authority would have to be created first and that could be years away.

Yet it is far more than Spain's struggle that has unnerved markets.

Greece is still struggling with a mountain of debt and international creditors will visit the country Tuesday to check on the country's attempts reform its economy. There is concern that officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will find that that Greece is not living up to the terms of its bailouts and could withhold future funds.

Italy has also been caught up in fears that it may be pushed into asking for aid. Italy's economy is stagnating and markets are worried that it may soon not be able to maintain its debt burden of (EURO)1.9 trillion ($2.32 trillion) - the biggest in the eurozone after Greece. Interest rates on Italy's government bonds rose steeply Monday while its stock market dropped 2.76 percent.

The collapse in stock prices in Italy and Spain prompted regulators to introduce temporary bans on short-selling - a practice where traders sell stocks they don't already own in the hope they can make a profit if the stock falls in price.

Pascal Lamy, director of the World Trade Organization, said after a meeting with French President Francois Holland that the situation in Europe is "difficult, very difficult, very difficult, very difficult."

Ireland, Greece and Portugal have already taken bailout loans after they could no longer afford to borrow on bond markets. Yet those countries are tiny compared to Italy and Spain, the third- and fourth-largest economies in the eurozone. Analysts say a full bailout for both could strain the other eurozone countries' financial resources.

Spain has already received a commitment of up to (EURO)100 billion from other eurozone countries to bail out its banks, which suffered heavy losses from bad real estate loans. Eurozone finance ministers signed off on the aid Friday and said (EURO)30 billion would be made available right away. But that incremental step cuts little ice with investors. If Spain's borrowing rates continue to rise, the government may end up being locked out of international markets and be forced to seek a financial rescue.

"Events since Friday have been a clear wake-up call to anyone who thought that the Spanish bank rescue package had bought a calm summer for the euro crisis," analyst Carsten Brzeski said.

The eurozone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, has only (EURO)500 billion in lending power, with (EURO)100 billion potentially committed to Greece. Italy and Spain together have debt burdens of around (EURO)2.5 trillion. And the ESM hasn't yet been ratified by member states plus eurozone governments have made it clear they won't put more money into the pot.

That once again pushes the European Central Bank into the frontline against the crisis.

On Saturday, Spain's Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo pleaded for help, saying that only the European Central Bank could halt the panic. But the ECB has shown little willingness to restart its program to purchase the government bonds of financially troubled countries. The central bank has already bought more than (EURO)200 billion in bonds since May 2010, with little lasting impact on the crisis.

The central bank has also cut its benchmark interest rates to a record low of 0.75 percent in the hope of kick-starting lending. Yet many economists question how much stimulus this provides as the rates are already very low - and no one wants to borrow anyway.

There has been speculation the ECB could eventually have to follow the Bank of England and the U.S. Federal Reserve and embark on a program of "quantitative easing" - buying up financial assets across the eurozone to increase the supply of money. That could assist governments by driving down borrowing costs as well.

But so-called QE is fraught with potential legal trouble for the ECB - a European treaty forbids it from helping governments borrow.

In the case of Greece, the country is dependent on foreign bailout loans to pay its bills. A cutoff of aid over its inability to meet the loan conditions would leave it without any source of financing - and could push it to exit the euro so it can print its own money to cover its debts.

Germany's economy minister, Phillip Roesler, said the prospect of Greece leaving the euro was now so familiar it had "had lost its horror" and that he was skeptical Athens would meet conditions for continuing rescue money.

The deteriorating situation follows a summit June 28-29 that many hoped would convince markets political leaders were getting a handle on things. The summit agreed on easier access to bailout money and to set up a single banking regulator that could take the burden of bank bailouts off national governments. Yet many of those changes will take months or years to introduce - and there has been no increase in bailout money.

It is an echo of a similar summit in July 2011, when leaders agreed on a second bailout and debt reduction for Greece, only to see borrowing costs spike dramatically as leaders headed off for August vacations.

Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Monument Securites Ltd, said that "events are following a pattern often repeated in the course of the eurozone's troubles, in which the powers-that-be hail progress only to see confidence, almost instantaneously, plumb fresh depths."


The last bail out didn't last a week