"Am I therefore become your enemy,because I TELL YOU THE TRUTH...?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

U.S. Seeks to get Albania and Croatia into NATO

WASHINGTON-The United States is taking another step toward getting formerly communist Albania and Croatia folded into the NATO alliance.President Bush planned to meet Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and sign so-called accession protocols paving the way for the two Balkan countries' final membership in the military alliance.The White House invited to the signing ceremony about 160 lawmakers, members of the diplomatic corps, the U.S. ambassadors to Albania and Croatia, and members of Albanian-American and Croatian-American groups.NATO leaders agreed at a summit earlier this year in Romania to invite Albania and Croatia into the alliance. However, the alliance rebuffed U.S. attempts to begin the process of inviting Ukraine and Georgia, both former Soviet republics, to join. Despite strong U.S. backing to bring them in, Germany, France and some other alliance members opposed the move, fearing it would provoke Russia.The idea of NATO enlargement on its doorstep has irked the Russians.Ties between Russia and NATO members have been further strained by the Georgia-Russia conflict. The war erupted in August when Georgia launched an attack to regain control over South Ossetia, which broke from Georgian control in the early 1990s. Russian forces swiftly repelled the attack and drove deep into Georgia.Albania and Croatia will be eligible to join NATO when all 26 allies have ratified the accession protocols. Slovakia and Hungary have ratified them to date. NATO officials hope Albania and Croatia will be able to participate as full members at next year's summit.

As in the days of Noah...

Air Force Revamping Oversight of Nuclear Arsenal After Embarrassing Missteps

WASHINGTON-The Air Force is creating a new command to manage the nation's nuclear arsenal better after a series of embarrassing missteps in the handling and oversight of its most sensitive materials.Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters Friday that the service is shifting its nuclear-capable bombers, missiles and staff into a new Global Strike Command. So far officials have spent more than $200 million on the reorganization effort, and expect to spend another $270 million during the budget year that began Oct. 1. Air Force leaders could not provide a total cost or staffing for the new command, which will be led by a lieutenant general, the force's second-highest rank.Donley said the latest shuffle would be a "new starting point" that would reinvigorate the service's nuclear mission. He also said it would help the Air Force focus on the arsenal's management, no matter how small it might become under future international agreements.The idea for a new, separate command stemmed from a recent highly critical report that concluded there has been a decline in the Air Force's focus on its nuclear mission, the performance of those who carry it out the failure of its leaders to respond effectively.Planned changes involve improved inspections, more emphasis on nuclear expertise and a better coordinated system to track nuclear materials. Control of the B-2 and B-52 bombers now under Air Combat Command, and the intercontinental ballistic missiles now under Space Command will shift to the newly formed Global Strike Command.While largely bureaucratic in nature, the changes reflect a realization by the Air Force that in the post-Cold War era, attention to the nuclear mission had slipped and must now be corrected. It took a series of embarrassing incidents that eventually prompted Defense Secretary Robert Gates to fire the previous Air Force secretary and chief of staff.The two major blunders involved the mistaken shipment to Taiwan of four electrical fuses for ballistic missile warheads and the flight of an Air Force B-52 bomber, mistakenly armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, from an Air Force base near the Canadian border across several states to land at a base near the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the pilot and crew were unaware they carried nuclear arms.A Pentagon advisory group, in a review of the problems, recommended last month that nuclear responsibilities be coordinated under the already existing Space Command, which is responsible for the service's land-based nuclear missiles but not other nuclear weapons.Asked why officials chose to create a new command rather than follow the group's recommendation, the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, said officials believed that lumping all the responsibility for space, cyber and nuclear issues would be too much for one command.
As in the days of Noah...

Political Prisoner?Questions Arise Over Incarceration of US Grad Student in Iran

Lawyer: Iran Should Release California College Student

TEHRAN,Iran-The Iranian government has no legal basis for detaining a female Iranian-American student doing research in Iran, her lawyer said Saturday.Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said no formal charges have been brought against Esha Momeni but officials at the Revolutionary Court privately told her parents her detention was related to her involvement in the "Change for Equality" campaign launched by Iranian women activists in September 2006."There is no legal basis for Momeni's detention. She has to be released now ... an opponent or a dissident can't be jailed as long as he or she doesn't take up arms against the ruling establishment," Dadkhah told The AP.Court officials and prosecutors could not be reached for comment Saturday.The 28-year-old Los Angeles-born graduate student at California State University was pulled over by police Oct. 15 for an alleged driving violation but was later taken to Evin prison, north of the capital Tehran, where she remains in detention.Security agents also searched Momeni's home and seized her computer and footage of interviews she had conducted as part of her research with women activists.The "Change for Equality" campaign seeks to collect a million signatures in support of changing laws that deny women in Iran equal rights in matters such as divorce and court testimonies.Momeni returned to Iran two months ago to see her family and do research for her master's degree thesis about women movements in Iran.Court officials have not allowed Dadkhah to meet his client, which he said was common-though illegal-when defendants are in "temporary detention," which cannot last for more than two months.Dadkhah said the 28-year old Momeni was being held in the infamous Section 209 of Evin, controlled by Iran's Intelligence Ministry.Momeni's friends and women activists have launched a campaign to free her, asking visitors to sign an online petition calling for her release.Melissa Wall, one of Momeni's teachers, said on her Web site that professors in California State University at a news conference Friday talked about how Momeni wanted the two worlds of America and Iran to better understand each other.Four Iranian-Americans scholars were jailed for several months and subsequently released last year over charges of endangering national security. The four came under suspicion by Iranian authorities of being part of a plot to foment a "velvet conspiracy" against the Islamic government.

As in the days of Noah.....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Israel's key Shas party will not join coalition

JERUSALEM-The Israeli ultra-orthodox Shas party decided on Friday not to join a coalition led by Israeli premier-designate Tzipi Livni, a party spokesman said, making early elections almost inevitable.On Thursday, Livni set a Sunday deadline to either say she can form a new Israeli coalition government or announce failure, thereby starting the constitutional process that leads to an early general election.Shas spokesman Roy Lachmanovich said in a statement that the party was unable to reach agreement with Livni's Kadima party over two main issues-the status of Jerusalem and social welfare benefits for the poor."Shas has asked only for two things ... real financial help for the (financially) weak in Israeli society and protection for Jerusalem ... which is not merchandise for sale."Lachamnovich said that as a result, the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who heads a group of sages who determine party policy, decided not to continue coalition talks.Foreign Minister Livni has been trying to forge political partnerships since she was elected leader of the centrist Kadima party last month, taking over from Ehud Olmert who resigned as prime minister in a corruption scandal.
As in the days of Noah....

Settler dies in West Bank stabbing

Palestinian kills elderly Israeli near Jerusalem

JERUSALEM-A Palestinian stabbed and killed an 86-year-old Israeli and wounded a policeman in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem on Thursday, police said.The attacker, Mohammed al-Badan, 20, from the village of Tekoa in the occupied West Bank, was shot and wounded by the policeman he stabbed and taken to hospital.The incident occurred in the settlement of Gilo, in the West Bank, near Jerusalem. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two police officers on patrol in Gilo, built on occupied land Israel considers to be a Jerusalem neighborhood, stopped an Arab for questioning on the street and he then pulled out a knife and stabbed one of them.The wounded policeman fired at the attacker but he managed to stab a passer-by before he was apprehended, Rosenfeld said.Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco said the Israeli man, aged 86, died of his wounds in hospital. His name was not released immediately. Police originally said he was 60 years old.The Magen David ambulance service said the Palestinian and the policeman sustained moderate injuries in the incident in Gilo, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and considers to be a neighborhood of Jerusalem. After the attack, Israeli soldiers raided Badan's home, detaining his father, sister and brother-in-law, family members said. Villagers in Tekoa threw rocks at the troops, who responded with stun grenades. There were no reports of injuries.Badan's mother told reporters her son worked at a building site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, known to Palestinians as Abu Ghneim, near Jerusalem.Palestinians see the building in Har Homa as the last rampart in a wall of settlements encircling Arab East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
As in the days of Noah....

Palestinians welcome Israeli interest in Saudi plan

PARIS-Palestinians hope Israeli calls for the revival of a Saudi peace initiative could lead to progress on a diplomatic track that has been dormant for years, their chief negotiator with Israel said Wednesday. Israeli President Shimon Peres last month called on Saudi King Abdullah to "further" a land-for-peace proposal endorsed six years ago by the Arab League, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week Israelis were reconsidering the plan."For the past week Israel has started speaking in a new and positive way about this initiative. We note this change of language and we place a lot of hope in it," Palestinian chief negotiator with Israel Ahmed Qurie told reporters in Paris.The Saudi plan calls for full Arab recognition of Israel if it gives up "all of the territories" occupied in the 1967 Six Day War and accepts "a just solution" for Palestinian refugees. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed full peace accords with Israel."Peres has said that it's a good and positive initiative and it is a base for a global negotiation between Israel and Arab countries. Barak has spoken in similar terms. I think Barak and Tzipi Livni are in agreement about that," Qurie said.Livni, Israel's foreign minister and prime minister-designate, has been Qurie's counterpart in the most recent round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Qurie said Livni, who is busy trying to put together a new coalition government for Israel, had said nothing to him about the Saudi initiative and he did not elaborate on why he thought she shared Barak's views on the issue.Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday he hoped Livni would follow Peres' lead when her government is up and running.Qurie said Barak's comments were positive although they should be put to the test of real diplomatic negotiations."This Arab initiative is the bravest and the best for finding a complete solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said, speaking through an interpreter.Livni has said she would pursue U.S.-backed bilateral peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that were launched a year ago by outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.Disputes over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and divisions among the Palestinians have thwarted Washington's hopes of clinching a bilateral peace deal by the end of this year. Echoing comments by other senior Palestinians, Qurie said there was "objectively no chance" of meeting that goal.

As in the days of Noah....

Russia test-fires old missile to extend lifespan

MOSCOW-Russia test-fired an intercontinental Stilet missile on Wednesday as part of the checks needed to extend the service of the weapon until 2010, the strategic missile forces said. The missile, which belongs to a type commissioned in 1979 and known in the West as SS-19, was fired from Baikonur space center hired by Russia in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, the forces' statement said. It did not specify where the missile landed."The results of the launch confirmed a decision to extend the exploitation time of one of the most reliable missile complexes up to 31 years," it added.Resurgent Russia views its nuclear potential as an argument supporting its claim for a stronger international role and as an effective deterrent in the face of Moscow's worsening relations with the West.Russian leaders have pledged tens of millions dollars for the military to develop new types of rockets, capable of breaking through any missile defense system, including the one being set up by the United States.Test launches of new missiles have become routine in the past few years and the Kremlin says Russia's financial crisis will not discourage it from spending as much cash as needed. However, the Russian military say that the existing types of missiles are powerful enough to be a reliable nuclear deterrent and can be used further after tests confirming their good technical condition.Earlier this month, Russia test-fired Topol missile which has been in the arsenal for 21 years."Prolonging the exploitation time for Stilets allows to free up considerable funds for other important state needs," the statement said. "The annual spending on research and construction is comparable with building one new missile."
As in the days of Noah....

Israel shuts Gaza crossings after rocket attack

JERUSALEM-Israel temporarily closed its border crossings with the Gaza Strip Wednesday after militants from the Hamas-controlled territory fired a rocket into southern Israel. "After a rocket was fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip yesterday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Gaza crossings to be closed starting Wednesday morning," a defense ministry official said.The official did not say how long the crossings would remain shut.Gaza militants fired the rocket Tuesday, the first in more than six weeks, causing no damage or injuries, Israeli police said.Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in June. It called for a cessation of cross-border violence and a gradual easing of Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, which was tightened after the Islamist group seized control of the territory in 2007.The truce has largely held, although Gaza militants occasionally fire rockets into Israel, which responds by temporarily closing its borders with the coastal territory.

As in the days of Noah....

Peres in Sharm el-Sheikh:Saudi plan can bring peace to Mideast

President Shimon Peres endorsed on Thursday the spirit of a broad Arab initiative as an opportunity that can bring peace to the Middle East, speaking at a meeting with Egypt's President in Sharm el-Sheikh. It was the first time Peres spoke in support of the long-stalled initiative in an Arab country, adding significance to his remarks. The United States ally Egypt is a regional heavyweight and was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israeli in 1979. Peres' remarks also marked another step in his recent efforts to jump-start a 2002 Saudi proposal for comprehensive peace in the region.The Nobel peace laureate Peres, whose post is mostly ceremonial, proposed putting Israel's various peace talks on one track last month at the United Nations, calling on Saudi King Abdullah to further his initiative. He has since been pushing the idea in meetings with Israeli, Arab and Western officials, his office said. During a visit Thursday to Egypt, Peres held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheik. The two later held a joint press conference. Peres said that while he doesn't "accept all of the Saudi plan and it needs to be negotiated further, its spirit is correct." However, Mubarak openly disagreed with Peres' one-track approach - saying "the Saudi initiative is not open for negotiations." Mubarak said Palestinians and Israelis should first reach an agreement through bilateral talks, before all Arab states normalize relations with Israel. His spokesman, Suleiman Awwad, later said Mubarak dismisses the idea of all Arab countries holding talks together with Israel before Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. The 2002 Saudi proposal offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands captured in 1967. The 22-member Arab League has endorsed the plan. "In tandem with the bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, we need to promote the Arab peace initiative," Peres told reporters. On Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israeli leaders were seriously considering the dormant Saudi plan. He said in radio interview that he had discussed it with prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni, who is in the process of forming a new government, and that Israel is considering a response. There is definitely room to introduce a comprehensive Israeli plan to counter the Saudi plan that would be the basis for a discussion on overall regional peace, Barak told Israel's Army Radio. Israel also objects to language in the initiative that appears to endorse a large-scale return of Palestinian refugees to lands inside Israel. Israel says a massive influx of Palestinians would destroy the country's Jewish character. Mubarak to Peres: Don't blame Egypt for failures in Shalit deal Mubarak told Peres on Thursday not to blame Egypt for the failures thus far in securing the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit was abducted by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006. Negotiations with Hamas for his release, mediated by Cairo, have so far yielded little result. This was Peres' first visit to Sharm el-Sheikh since 1996 and he was was welcomed in a formal military ceremony. Egypt will continue its persistent efforts to mediate and ensure success of Gilad Shalit release deal and the Palestinian prisoners deal, Mubarak said. Egypt has been brokering a potential prisoner exchange between Israel and Gaza's Hamas leaders. Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier, captured more than two years ago in a cross-border raid from Gaza into southern Israel.
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press
As in the days of Noah....

'Ahmadinejad's health is deteriorating'

The health of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is deteriorating, according to reports in the Islamic Republic.The reports come after Ahmadinejad, 52, canceled a series of public appearances, including two speeches and a cabinet meeting.A top aide to Ahmadinejad, Amir Mansour Borghei, told journalists the president was "indisposed".Iranian news Web site Shahab said doctors had advised the president to reduce his workload if he wanted to avoid illness, quoting "sources close to the government."The Web site indicated that the president had pulled out of the engagements due to fatigue caused by low blood pressure.However, other sources in Teheran speculated that the opposition was spreading rumors about Ahmadinejad's health in order to garner support for next year's elections.

As in the days of Noah....

US intelligence: Iran will be able to build first nuclear bomb by February 2009

US intelligence’s amended estimate, that Iran will be ready to build its first bomb just one month after the next US president is sworn in, is disclosed by DEBKAfile’s Washington sources as having been relayed as a guideline to the Middle East teams of both presidential candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.The information prompted the assertion by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden in Seattle Sunday, Oct. 19: “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.”McCain retorted Tuesday, Oct. 21: “America does not need a president that needs to be tested. I’ve been tested. I was aboard the Enterprise off the coast of Cuba. I’ve been there.”DEBKAfile’s military sources cite the new US timeline: By late January, 2009, Iran will have accumulated enough low-grade enriched uranium (up to 5%) for its “break-out” to weapons grade (90%) material within a short time. For this, the Iranians have achieved the necessary technology. In February, they can move on to start building their first nuclear bomb.US intelligence believes Tehran has the personnel, plans and diagrams for a bomb and has been running experiments to this end for the past two years. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last week asked Tehran to clarify recent complex experiments they conducted in detonating nuclear materials for a weapon, but received no answer.The same US evaluation adds that the Iranian leadership is holding off its go-ahead to start building the bomb until the last minute so as to ward off international pressure to stop at the red line.This development together with the galloping global economic crisis will force the incoming US president to go straight into decision-making without pause on Day One in the Oval Office. He will have to determine which urgent measures can serve best for keeping a nuclear bomb out of the Islamic republic’s hands - diplomatic or military – and how to proceed if those measures fail. His knowledge of the challenge colored Sen. Biden’s additional words in Seattle: “Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”Israel’s political and military leaders also face a tough dilemma that can no longer be put off of whether to strike Iran’s nuclear installations militarily in the next three months between US presidencies before the last window closes, or take a chance on coordination with the next president.Waiting for the “international community” to do the job of stopping Iran, as urged by governments headed by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert - and strongly advocated Tzipi Livni, foreign minister and would-be prime minister - has been a washout. Iran stands defiantly on the threshold of a nuclear weapon.

As in the days of Noah....

Iran,Russia,Qatar move on natural gas cartel

Russians, Qataris and Iranians met in Teheran on Tuesday to discuss setting up a natural gas cartel, similar to the oil-based Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).The notion of a gas cartel was brought up in January 2007 by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but it is now gaining momentum and may require just a few more meetings before an accord is finalized.Iran, Russia and Qatar account for nearly a third of the world's natural gas exporters.The European Union relies on Russia for a large part of its natural gas imports and is concerned that any such cartel will affect supply and prices.The EU expressed opposition to a gas cartel, saying energy should be sold in the free market.A strengthening of economic ties between Iran and Russia could also be a source of concern for the United States, which is spearheading efforts to isolate Teheran and pressure Iran into abandoning its controversial nuclear program.Russia already has several key contracts with Teheran, including its assistance in building the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which will reportedly be operational by early next year.Western powers fear Iran is secretly manufacturing nuclear weapons and the United States has not ruled out a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.As well as holding ample caches of natural gas, Iran also has large quantities of oil and has threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hurmuz if attacked, a move that could impede global oil supplies.Teheran insists its nuclear program is for the peaceful purposes of creating energy and upholds its right to possess nuclear technology.The problem with a gas cartel is the difficulty in setting a price globally, saidDr. Amit Mor, co-manager of Eco Energy, an Israeli energy and environmental consulting and investment firm.The main difference between oil and gas is transportation, he told The Media Line."Oil is an international commodity and you can transport oil through marine tankers, road tankers, trains, pipelines etc. Natural gas can only be transported via pipelines under high pressure or after being liquefied at minus165 degrees Celsius via special tankers to other destinations, and then re-gasifying them from the liquid state. This process is very costly," he explained.While oil is an international commodity, natural gas is not, and its price is set according to region and not globally, Mor said.Also, natural gas contracts are long-term, which makes it difficult to change the prices agreed upon on a short-term basis.

As in the days of Noah...

Official Describes Secret Uranium Shipment

WASHINGTON-Enough processed uranium to make six nuclear weapons was secretly transported thousands of miles by truck, rail and ship on a monthlong trip from a research reactor in Budapest, Hungary, to a facility in Russia so it could be more closely protected against theft, U.S. officials revealed Wednesday.The shipment, conducted under tight secrecy and security, included a three-week trip by cargo ship through the Mediterranean, up the English Channel and the North Sea to Russia's Arctic seaport of Murmansk, the only port Russia allows for handling nuclear material.The 13 radiation-proof casks, each weighing 17,000 pounds, arrived by rail at the secure nuclear material facility at Mayak in Siberia on Wednesday, carrying 341 pounds of weapons usable uranium, said Kenneth Baker, a National Nuclear Security Administration official who oversaw the complex project.It is the largest recovery to date of highly enriched uranium provided either by the former Soviet Union or the United States under a program, begun in the 1950s, aimed at spreading the peaceful use of nuclear energy.The two countries have been working to return the spent fuel from reactors around the world because at many of the facilities, including the one in Budapest, security is lax, raising the possibility of the material being stolen by terrorists."It was a big shipment, the biggest one we've ever done," Baker said in an interview with The Associated Press hours after he received word that the shipment had arrived at its final destination in Russia."It was basically enough to make six nuclear weapons." Under the U.S.-Russian program, the NNSA, which is part of the Energy Department, has completed 15 recoveries of U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium from research reactors in more than a dozen countries since 2005. The agency also was involved in three earlier shipments of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium that were removed from the Czech Republic, Latvia and Bulgaria and returned to Russia.But the project targeting the 341 pounds of highly radioactive used fuel from the Budapest research reactor was particularly complex and challenging, said Baker, the NNSA's assistant deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation.It began at 3 a.m. in Budapest in late September and ended early Wednesday, Washington time, at the nuclear facility at Mayak in Russian Siberia. In between the shipment moved without notice aboard truck and rail to the port of Koper in Slovenia and then by special cargo ship through the ocean shipping lanes that encircle Europe, always staying in international waters at least 12 miles from shore, according to Baker.The unusual roundabout route was needed because "we couldn't ship it through Ukraine" even though that would have been a more direct route to Russia, Baker said.So in the early hours in late September, the 13 casks were secretly loaded onto trucks at the Budapest facility and taken to the city's train station, where it was transported onto a special train — one cask per car — for an eight-hour trip to the port of Koper in Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea.The shipments then moved through the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic and into the English Channel, the North and Norwegian seas and then on to Murmansk by Saturday. From there the shipment was loaded on a train for the long trip to Siberia."It was the most complicated trip we've ever taken by far," said Baker, who oversaw the loading and early part of the shipment but did not accompany the shipment after it went to sea, instead returning to Washington.Early Wednesday, he received notice that the shipment had arrived at Mayak, where security is far tighter than in Budapest.In Budapest "they had a fence and a guard," said Baker, although some security improvements have been made with U.S. help over the past year. Still, Baker added, "you don't want to leave it there."The Hungarian reactor now is being converted to use low-enriched uranium that can't be used in a weapon and won't be a potential terrorist target.So far, including the shipment from Budapest, 1,685 pounds of Russian-origin uranium has been retrieved from 11 countries. But there are still a significant number of reactors that have either U.S. or Russian highly enriched uranium, including some with security far less than what is desirable, according to nuclear nonproliferation activists.
On the Net:
National Nuclear Security Administration: http://nnsa.energy.gov/

As in the days of Noah....

Air Force creates new pilot programs for drones

WASHINGTON-Scrambling to meet commanders' insatiable demands for unmanned aircraft, the Air Force is launching two new training programs, including an experimental one that would churn out up to 1,100 desperately needed pilots to fly the drones over Iraq and Afghanistan.As many as 700 Air Force personnel have expressed some interest in the test program, which will create a new brand of pilot for the drones, which are flown by remote control from a base in Nevada. That new drone operator will learn the basics of flying a small manned plane, but will not go through the longer, more rigorous training that their fighter jet brethren receive.A senior Air Force officer told The Associated Press that by the end of September 2011, the goal is to have 50 unmanned combat air patrols operating 24 hours a day, largely over Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently there are 30.To generate the pilots for the increased flights, the Air Force hopes to create separate pilot pipelines for its manned and unmanned aircraft, said Col. Curt Sheldon, assistant to the director of air operations for unmanned aircraft issues."I don't know that you could ever get (a drone) to everybody who wants one," Sheldon said. "I believe it is virtually insatiable. We are pedaling fast, we are working hard to meet that need."Besides the new test program, Sheldon said the Air Force is planning to shift about 100 manned-aircraft pilots directly from training into jobs flying the drones. The unmanned aircraft are mostly Predators — hunter-killer planes that fly in the war zone but are operated by pilots sitting at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.Until now, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) pilots have had to complete at least one tour of flight duty before moving to the drone jobs.The urgent push for more drone pilots has been spurred by blunt demands from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He has criticized the Air Force's failure to move more quickly to meet war commanders' needs. And he set up a task force in April to find more innovative ways to get the aircraft to the battlefield more quickly.Predators are playing a crucial role on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing real-time surveillance video to troops on the ground, targeting and firing Hellfire anti-tank missiles at militants, and homing in on enemy efforts to plant roadside bombs.Earlier this year, for example, a Predator-probably one operated by the CIA-fired on a suspected terrorist safehouse in Pakistan's north Waziristan region, killing Abu Laith al-Libi, a key al-Qaida leader.To date, the Air Force has been using experienced fighter pilots to operate the drones. But as the demand has skyrocketed, the service has struggled to find enough pilots to fill both the manned and unmanned jobs."The pipeline that produces manned operators is full," said Sheldon. "We're pushing them through there as fast as we can."The two new programs are just beginning.Two pilots have just been selected to go directly from training to the unmanned program. Once there they will get an additional four to six weeks of schooling on how to operate the drone, how the weapons systems work, and how to coordinate with troops on the ground.Eventually that will expand, sending as many as 100 a year through the drone program for the next three years.Meanwhile, the test program for non-pilots is aimed at Air Force captains who have four to six years of experience, but no flight training. Their schooling would take up to nine months, and they would not have to meet all of the more stringent standards that jet fighter pilots must.Unmanned pilots, for example, will not have to meet certain height or vision requirements, and also would not be eliminated due to physical conditions that might prevent them from flying at high altitudes.In pressing the Air Force to be more aggressive getting drones to the war, Gates hinted at such a plan, calling for "bold" thinking."All this may require rethinking long-standing service assumptions and priorities about which missions require certified pilots and which do not," Gates said in April.Under the fledgling program, the drone pilots would go to Pueblo, Colo., for about six weeks of flight training. Sheldon said they would learn to fly a small Mitsubishi single-engine propeller plane, probably do a solo flight and get a handle on basic aircraft controls. They would also train on flight simulators, and then go through the unmanned aircraft training.Officials quickly reject temptations to compare the drone pilots to video gamers who have a far easier job at their computer screens than pilots sitting in cockpits. An F-16 fighter jet, said Sheldon is easy enough to fly from one spot to another. The harder part, he said, is deploying the weapons.The same is true for the drones."It's not particularly difficult to fly a (drone) from point A to point B," said Sheldon. "It is challenging to fly it in a combat environment, coordinating with a guy on the ground who wants you to hit a target over here that's got (friendly) folks only 50 meters from it."Air Force captains have until Nov. 3 to apply for the new program. They will be screened and tested, and the first 10 will begin classes Jan. 5. A second class of 10 will begin in April.The test program will also get reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration in the coming months. Officials could not provide any cost estimates for the new training programs.
On the Net:
Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil/

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Port of LA Buys Security Scanners from Chinese Firm

Los Angeles is the USA’s second largest port, which makes it a key cog in the American economy. In an era where lean inventories are a business norm, disruptions in that port could have massive, cascading ripple effects on the US economy. Improving its security and streamlining its operations are both a national security imperative, and a national commercial imperative. Now, Government Security News notes that the Port of Los Angeles has purchased a sophisticated high-energy X-ray security scanning system from a Chinese manufacturer. Its stated purpose makes it a bit player in the port’s operations: inspect trucks delivering food, groceries and other supplies to cruise ships that dock in LA.What raised more eyebrows was the identity of the Chinese manufacturer. NUCTECH is run by 37 year old Hu Haifeng, the son of PRC President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao. System requirements include the ability to capture, store and transmit 25,000 or more X-ray images and associated documents for remote viewing, and it will be paid for with a $1.7 million port security grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.NUCTECH has won business in Europe, and now in America, by significantly underpricing its competitors. That was also true in Los Angeles, where their $1.9 million bid fronted by DULY Research Inc. in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA beat competitors Smiths GE Detection ($2.7 million) and Rapiscan ($2.9 million). That pricing, and the vendor, have both caused some controversy, but the port is sticking by its guns. Read “Port of L.A. buys Chinese X-ray scanning system with U.S. taxpayer money” for more background and details.
As in the days of Noah....

Russian watchdog rejects Google bid for ad firm

MOSCOW-Russia's anti-trust watchdog rejected on Thursday a $140 million bid by Google Inc. to buy the Begun advertising agency, claiming the deal would reduce competition in the online advertising market. Russia's Federal Anti-monopoly Service, FAS, said it had blocked the deal because Google had not provided enough information that would allow FAS to properly assess its consequences and thus potentially hurt competition. "Having reviewed the documents and information received relating to this deal, FAS on Oct. 22, 2008, made a decision to refuse to satisfy the appeal," FAS said in a statement on its website www.fas.gov.ru. FAS has been stepping up its presence over recent months as part of a plan to build the service up into one of the government's most powerful agencies. Russia's anti-monopoly service has been under the spotlight since Vladimir Putin, Russia's powerful Prime Minister, demanded the anti-trust service become more active."We are very disappointed to hear that FAS has come to this decision since we strongly believe that this acquisition will enable us to significantly improve opportunities for Russian users, advertisers and publishers as well as the entire industry," said Google Russia PR director Alla Zabrovskaya."At this time, we are awaiting the FAS's decision. Once the review process is complete, we will decide on our next steps."Google agreed to buy Begun from Rambler Media, the British-registered owner of Russia's Rambler Internet portal, in July this year for $140 million .Begun is the largest contextual advertising network in the Russian sector of the Internet. It provides a service similar to Google's targeted text advertisement serving programme AdSense.

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No signs of Qaeda election threat - U.S.

WASHINGTON-Al Qaeda has shown no signs it plans to attack the United States during the presidential election, but the government must keep guard during the 2-1/2-month transition to a new president, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday.Chertoff added the global economic turmoil had yet to cause any visible change in al Qaeda's strategy, although the financial crisis could reduce state and local spending on security.He also cautioned about heated political rhetoric in "an intemperate time," saying it could fuel violence among Americans."I have not seen evidence that a major element of al Qaeda's planning is our anniversaries or our elections," Chertoff told Reuters in an interview."Terrorist operations are undertaken when they are operationally ready. They don't wait for something that's an external event, and they don't rush it."But he said, "In a transition, as people leave and new people come in, it's human nature to have some distraction, and therefore it's important to be extra-focused during that period so that distraction does not become a vulnerability." The new president takes office on Jan. 20.Al Qaeda attacks around the time of elections in Spain, Britain and Pakistan have caused some experts to warn the United States is potentially vulnerable before the Nov. 4 vote."The remaining ... days of before the elections should be seen as a time of high threat," Los Angeles Police Commissioner William Bratton and former National Security Council official R.P Eddy said in a New York Daily News opinion column on Wednesday.Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden also issued a videotape in late October 2004 shortly before the U.S. presidential election that was seen as an attempt to tilt the outcome toward U.S. President George W. Bush. That year's Democratic presidential challenger, John Kerry, blamed the video in part for his defeat.Chertoff did not rule out the possibility al Qaeda would issue election-season statements, but said, "I don't regard an election, or a milestone like that, as in and of itself a significant indicator" of attack plans.Asked about the potential for domestic violence, Chertoff warned that hot rhetoric could trigger a "disturbed individual," something the United States has long lived with. "We live in an intemperate time, when a lot of people take political positions which they express not just with vigor but so often with animosity and anger, and there is always a danger that someone reading that or listening to that suddenly decides now they want to act out. That's why we have the Secret Service."The presidential campaigns of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have each accused the other side's supporters of inflamed comments.
Chertoff said he had seen no signs a global financial crisis was enticing al Qaeda to plan attacks to take advantage of a perceived new weakness.But he remained concerned al Qaeda had taken advantage of safe locations in Pakistan's border with Afghanistan to train Europeans and dispatch attackers. "The question is whether that will translate into something that's imminent." The U.S. financial system was relatively well protected against computer attacks, such as crippled Georgia during last summer's incursion by neighbor Russia, and against physical attacks, he said.But the financial crisis may affect security. Some state and local governments, facing tight budgets due to an economic slowdown, have already tried to shift federal homeland security money for other purposes, with stretched justifications that Chertoff characterized as treating "muggers as terrorists."Chertoff encouraged the Obama and McCain campaigns to identify early top homeland security aides so they could begin working with outgoing counterparts.He said he intended to leave around the presidential inauguration to go into the private sector. He said his successor needed a background in law enforcement or emergency management, and should lack a grander political ambition, because of the many feathers ruffled by the sprawling new department.
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US Troops Hand Over Province to Iraqis in What Once Was the "Triangle of Death"

Texas Chapel Under Fire for ‘Annihilate Islam’ Sign

"Islam is a false religion, it cannot offer eternal life. We live in a day and age now where everything has to be politically correct, we wouldn't want to offend anybody, we wouldn't want to make them feel bad..."

North Korea Clamps Down on Cell Phones, Uses Public Executions to Halt News of Food Crisis

North Korea is clamping down on cell phones and long distance telephone calls to prevent the spread of news about a worsening food crisis, according to the United Nations investigator on human rights for the isolated communist country.In a report to the U.N. General Assembly, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who has never been allowed to visit North Korea, said that its government is using public executions as a means of intimidating the population, and using spies to infiltrate and expose religious communities.His report came two days after the World Food Program said that two thirds of North Koreans do not have enough to eat, in the country’s worst crisis since as many as three million people died of famine a decade ago. "Sadly, even though the harvest was getting better, we have had devastating floods in 2006 and 2007," Muntarbhorn said in New York. "Over the past year we have had very worrying information of a very chronic food shortage."He acknowledged that the government of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s supreme leader, has allowed access by international agencies to areas damaged by floods in 2007, but described the overall human rights situation as "grave.""Particularly disconcerting is the use of public executions to intimidate the public," he said. "This is despite various law reforms in 2004 and 2005, which claim to have improved the criminal law framework and related sanctions."Available food is disproportionately directed to the political elite, the media is controlled by the state, there is no political participation, and dissidents and those with religious faith are persecuted, as well as those who return to North Korea after illicitly leaving the country across the Chinese border.
Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.
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PESTILENCE WATCH:In Zimbabwe,cholera and starvation may soon take hold

As if things could not get any worse in Zimbabwe, the country has a worsening cholera epidemic.According to the brave and scrupulously accurate Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), the disease, caused by contaminated water, is spreading in many "high-density suburbs" (formerly segregated townships) around Harare, the capital, and in three districts of Mashonaland West, a province which saw some of the worst violence during this year's elections. There have been 27 deaths in the past month.The ZADHR statement points out that cholera is a disease "that can be easily prevented and cured". It is normally a problem only after disasters such as earthquakes or floods, when people have no choice but to drink water contaminated by sewage or dead livestock. But according to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the state water company has run out of money to pay suppliers and engineering firms.Zimbabwe's infrastructure and government services, such as education, were once the envy of Africa. But the creeping disaster that has overtaken the country under Robert Mugabe means up to five million people face starvation by early next year. For cholera to make an appearance is on a par with the judgement of economists that no economy has ever collapsed as rapidly and completely as Zimbabwe's, except in the midst of all-out war.Not that Mr Mugabe seems to care. Since the "historic" peace settlement signed with the opposition in mid-September, he has done eveything he can to ignore and bypass it, even to the extent of denying his rival Morgan Tsvangirai a passport to attend a regional conference in Swaziland to discuss the crisis. As a result the conference has been shifted to Harare on Monday, but don't hold your breath.
By Raymond Whitaker
As in the days of Noah....

Oil powerhouse Venezuela struggles to keep lights on

SAN FELIX, Venezuela-Despite having some of the world's largest energy reserves, Venezuela is increasingly struggling to maintain basic electrical service, a growing challenge for leftist President Hugo Chavez.The OPEC nation has suffered three nationwide blackouts this year, and chronic power shortages have sparked protests from the western Andean highlands to San Felix, a city of mostly poor industrial workers in the sweltering south.Shoddy electrical service is now one of Venezuelans' top concerns, according to a recent poll, and may be a factor in elections next month for governors and mayors in which Chavez allies are expected to lose key posts, in part on complaints of poor services.The problem suggests that Chavez, with his ambitious international alliances and promises to end capitalism, risks alienating supporters by failing to focus on basic issues like electricity, trash collection and law enforcement."With so much energy in Venezuela, how can we be without power?" asked Fernando Aponte, 49, whose slum neighborhood of Las Delicias in San Felix spent 15 days without electricity-leading him to block a nearby avenue with burning tires in protest.Just next door, Carmen Fernandez, 82, who is blind and has a pacemaker, says she has trouble sleeping through sultry nights without even a fan to cool her.Experts say Venezuela for years has skimped billions of dollars in electrical investments, leaving generation 20 percent below the level necessary for a stable power grid and increasing the risk of national outages. Officially Venezuela has a capacity of 22,500 megawatts for a population of 28 million people, but a sizeable proportion is not working, analysts say.And while Chavez has won praise for investing in health and education, his government has done little to repair local distribution systems that deliver electricity to end users, from barrio residents to business and industries.
Pastora Medina, a legislator representing San Felix and nearby cities suffering chronic power problems, this month tried to bring the issue up in the national Congress in Caracas, but the legislature's leadership refused to let her speak.Several hours later, as the legislature discussed a South American integration plan created by Chavez, Congress itself lost power for around 10 minutes."Congress wouldn't listen to me, but God must have," Medina said with a chuckle as she recounted the incident later at her office in San Felix.Though it is a key oil exporter, most of Venezuela's power comes from hydroelectricity generated in dams in the southeast, near Brazil, and sent to the rest of the country. The remainder comes mainly from aging oil-fired plants.The transimission system is also suffering from underinvestment, which makes it vulnerable to the failures that caused this year's blackouts.The government has responded by building dozens of tiny local plants that generate a fraction of a percent of national consumption, a model known as "distributed generation" used in Cuba, where a U.S. embargo impedes electrical development.
But to keep up with demand, Venezuela needed to add 1,000 megawatts of new generation capacity every year for at least the last five years, but instead it has installed only about 350 MW a year."We have to reach the most remote villages with the system of distributed generation," Chavez said in recent speech, inaugurating a generator in a town with deficient power.His government has also promised to accelerate new generation and boost transmission grid investment.
But critics say these small power plants are political quick fixes that avoid tackling the thorny problems of boosting generation and fixing decrepit distribution systems. "We need a clear energy policy, because the policy we have is not sustainable," Andres Matas, a former planning chief for a state power company. "This is a problem for the entire country." He said this will require investment in local distribution systems, speeding up generation projects stalled for years by bureaucracy and lifting state-imposed price controls that keep tariffs at about 20 percent of what U.S. residents pay.It will also require collecting fees from millions of barrio residents who illegally link their homes to the power grid with improvised and dangerous lines-a move not likely to be popular with a government that depends on barrio votes.Even as he enjoys strong support for his oil-financed social development campaign, polls show Chavez sympathizers are losing patience with the national and local politicians' inability to tackle bread-and-butter issues.Chavez last year fired up his supporters with a wave of state takeovers including the nationalization of electricity operations, among them Electricidad de Caracas, which was majority owned by U.S.-based AES Corp.But his supporters now seem more concerned about deteriorating service than the state ownership.Chronic power problems take the strongest toll in barrios like those of San Felix-still bastions of Chavez support-where power surges routinely burn out home appliances."Our refrigerators have burned out so we can't shop for the week, we can only shop for one day at a time," said Nestor Pacheco, 39. "The situation is serious."
As in the days of Noah....

Norway parliament accepts bank liquidity package

OSLO, Norway-The Norwegian parliament unanimously passed the government's 350 billion kroner ($51.5 billion)bond package Friday to help banks improve liquidity in the market.Passage of the package that the government proposed on Oct. 12 had been expected because the three-party coalition controls a majority in the legislature.Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen told lawmakers that the government was prepared to take more and stronger steps if needed.The government said banks will be offered the new bonds in exchange for bonds secured against Norwegian mortgages. They can then use the bonds as a security for loans.The bonds will have a maturity of three years.The vote came as the Oslo bourse's main index closed down more than 9 percent on Friday, joining a worldwide dive in share prices.
As in the days of Noah...

Full text of Asia-Europe statement on int'l financial situation

BEIJING-The following is the full text of a statement on the international financial situation issued here Friday by the Asia- Europe Meeting, as released by China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Statement of the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting on the International Financial Situation
Beijing, 24 October 2008
1. Leaders attending the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting had an in-depth discussion on the current international economic and financial situation and its trend of development. They expressed concern over the impact of the spreading international financial crisis on the global economy and in particular, the severe challenges it poses to financial stability and economic development of countries in Asia and Europe.
2. Leaders believed that authorities of all countries should demonstrate vision and resolution and take firm, decisive and effective measures in a responsible and timely manner to rise to the challenge of the financial crisis. Leaders expressed full confidence that the crisis could be overcome through such concerted efforts.
3. Leaders welcomed the measures adopted by countries and organizations to ensure the smooth running of the financial system and real economy. They called on the international community to continue to strengthen coordination and cooperation and take effective and available economic and financial measures in a comprehensive way to restore market confidence, stabilize global financial markets and promote global economic growth.
4. Leaders agreed that IMF should play a critical role in assisting countries seriously affected by the crisis, upon their request.
5. Leaders were of the view that to resolve the financial crisis it is imperative to handle properly the relationship between financial innovation and regulation and to maintain sound macroeconomic policy. They recognized the need to improve the supervision and regulation of all financial actors, in particular their accountability.
6. Leaders called on all countries to pursue responsible and sound monetary, fiscal and financial regulatory policies, enhance transparency, inclusiveness, strengthen oversight, and improve crisis management mechanisms so as to maintain their own economic development and the stability of the financial markets. They agreed that the necessary and timely measures should be taken to preserve the stability of the financial system.
7. Leaders pledged to undertake effective and comprehensive reform of the international monetary and financial systems. They agreed to take quickly appropriate initiatives in this respect, in consultation with all stakeholders and the relevant international financial institutions. The International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions should bring into play their mandated role in the international financial system, to help stabilize the international financial situation.
8. Leaders supported the convening of an international summit on 15 November in Washington D.C. to address the current crisis and principles of reform of the international financial system as well as long-term stability and development of the world economy.
9. Leaders agreed to make full use of ASEM and other cooperation mechanisms to enhance information sharing, policy exchange, and pragmatic cooperation on supervision and management in the financial sector and effectively monitor, prevent and respond to financial risks to ensure sustained, stable and sound economic growth.

As in the days of Noah...

Iceland asks for $2bln from IMF: govt

Iceland's government said Friday it had asked for two billion dollars (1.58 billion euros) of support from the International Monetary Fund, the first Western country to do so since 1976. "The Icelandic Government has reached an agreement... with a mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a comprehensive stabilisation program" worth two billion dollars, a government statement said.It added that the agreement still required approval by IMF managers.
As in the days of Noah....

Asian Markets Continue to Tumble

LONDON-Fear of global recession battered stock markets again on Thursday while a flight from emerging market debt and stocks helped push the dollar to a two-year high against major currencies.European shares lost around 2.5 percent, Asian shares hit four-year lows and Wall Street looked set for a poor start.Investors were also focusing on major company earnings reports, fearful that the worst financial crisis in 80 years and a deteriorating global economy would combine to decimate corporate profits.Emerging markets were particularly under the gun.MSCI's main emerging market stock index was down 4.3 percent on the day, hitting a nearly four-year low after major losses on Wednesday. It has lost nearly 35 percent of its value so far this month.Emerging market sovereign debt spreads blew out to more than 830 basis points over U.S. Treasury yields, a gap not seen since late 2002.The cost of insurance against sovereign debt default in countries such as South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia and Kazakhstan has soared over the past two days."There is now little argument that the world economy will experience a period of sub-par growth, and a recession in several advanced economies looks increasingly likely," Goldman Sachs said in a research note.
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OPEC Cuts Oil Production in Move to Boost Prices

Take that, OPEC....
The international oil cartel agreed Friday to cut daily production by 1.5 million barrels in a move to drive up prices on the international market-and, at the gas pump.But, crude oil futures went in the other direction, falling 5 percent Friday in London trading on speculation that demand will continue to fall.Oil fell sharply in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, with light sweet crude priced for December delivery at $64.40.Hardline OPEC members Iran and Venezuela had been pushing members to slice production by 2 million barrels a day, with Iran's oil minister declaring, "The era of cheap oil is finished." When asked before Friday's meeting what price Iran would want for its oil, Gholam Hossein Nozari boasted, "The more the better."OPEC, meanwhile, cited lower demand and market surpluses as reason for reducing output."The financial crisis is already having a noticeable impact on the world economy, dampening the demand for energy...and oil in particular," OPEC said in a press release after the decision was announced. "This slowdown in oil demand is serving to exacerbate the situation in a market which has been oversupplied with crude for some time."It also noted that the collapse in oil prices-which have fallen over 55 percent since their mid-July peaks-may jeopardize oil projects and threaten supply growth in the medium term.Iran is a traditional OPEC hardliner on prices and production and is the second largest producer within the organization. Saudi Arabia leads OPEC production, and was expected to lobby ministers for a smaller cut than proposed by Iran and Venezuela.Iran has taken a liking to astronomical oil prices, using its newfound wealth to fuel its nuclear program in defiance of the U.S. and the global community.Sam Gault, president of Gault Inc., a fifth-generation, family-owned oil business in Westport, Conn., said the Saudis still control OPEC's actions."Its really going to come down to whether Saudi Arabia wants to cut production, because they're the ones that can afford to cut production,"Gault told FOXNews.com. "A lot of times the different members of OPEC wind up cheating on their quotas."Analysts at JBC Energy in Vienna, Austria, said that the oil cartel is likely to request non-OPEC producers, including Russia, to cooperate with them "in order to hinder the price slide.""Behind the scenes negotiations (with Russia) are going on and a well-publicized joint cut is still possible," the analysts wrote in a report Thursday.Over the last four weeks, gasoline demand fell 4.3 percent from the same period last year,a ccording to industry analysts. Distillate fuel demand was down 5.8 percent, and jet fuel demand was down 9.2 percent.

As in the days of Noah...

OPEC agrees sharp output cut

VIENNA-An emergency OPEC meeting on Friday reached swift agreement to chop production by 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in an effort to halt a deep oil price slide. International benchmark U.S. crude has slumped by close to 60 percent from a record high of $147.27 hit in July. On Friday, it fell again to below $63 a barrel."The decision was straightforward," Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said after the meeting."OPEC will do whatever is necessary to balance oil markets."In the world's biggest energy consumer the United States, oil prices and economic weakness have been major factors in the run-up to the November presidential election. Washington was quick to criticize OPEC's decision."It has always been our view that the value of commodities, including oil, should be determined in open, competitive markets and not by these kinds of anti-market production decisions," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.For the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the speed of the oil market's collapse after a record rally has stirred memories of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.OPEC's sluggish response then as demand disappeared and oil stocks mounted up helped to push oil to less than $10 in 1998.
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OPEC Expected to Cut Oil Production,Driving Gas Prices Up

Iran holding American student in prison

CAIRO, Egypt - An American university student in Iran to visit family and research women's rights has been arrested and held in prison for more than a week, rights group Amnesty International said.Esha Momeni, a student at California State University, Northridge, was driving on a highway in Tehran when she was stopped by authorities who said they were traffic police, the London-based Amnesty said.Iranian officials said Momeni was arrested Oct. 15 for a traffic offense. But Amnesty said in a statement Tuesday she was taken to her family's home where her computer and other materials related to her research on the Iranian women's movement were confiscated.Momeni, who is a member of the California branch of Change for Equality-an Iranian women's rights group-was later taken to Evin prison, the Tehran facility notorious for holding political prisoners, Amnesty said.Her family was told by an Iranian court on Monday that her case was still being investigated, and no details would be released until after the probe was completed, Amnesty said.Iranian judicial officials have not commented on the case and no other details were immediately available in Iran.The university is calling for her release.
"Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be concerned," said the university's president Jolene Koester
.In Washington, the State Department said it was aware of reports of Momeni's arrest and was seeking more information."We stand with all those in Iran who are working for universal human rights and justice in their countries," deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Wednesday.Momeni was aware of the risks of her work, said Melissa Wall, her thesis adviser and director of the university's mass communications graduate program."We talked about the dangers," Wall said. "But in the end, it was her decision to go. She was interested in communicating to Americans a broader image of Iranian women. She has a lovely presence, she smiled a lot."Momeni was nearing the scheduled end of her stay when she was arrested, Wall said.Amnesty said dozens of other activists and supporters have been arrested in Iran in connection with their activities with the Change for Equality campaign, launched by Iranian women activists in September 2006.The campaign is seeking to collect a million signatures in support of changing laws that deny women in Iran equal rights in matters such as divorce and court testimonies.Momeni's arrest comes about a year after several Iranian-Americans accused of stirring up a revolution were released from Evin prison after spending months in detention. All four denied the accusations.
On the Net:
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IRAN :US Student Studying Women's Rights Held in Iranian Prison

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Top Iran officials recommend preemptive strike against Israel

Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London.The official, Dr. Seyed G. Safavi, said recent threats by Israeli authorities strengthened this position, but that as of yet, a preemptive strike has not been integrated into Iranian policy. Safavi is head of the Research Institute of Strategic Studies in Tehran, and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The institute is directly affiliated with Khamenei's office and with the Revolutionary Guards, and advises both on foreign policy issues.Safavi is also the brother of Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was the head of the Revolutionary Guards until a year ago and now is an adviser to Khamenei, and holds significant influence on security matters in the Iranian government. An Israeli political official said senior Jerusalem officials were shown Safavi's remarks, which are considered highly sensitive. The source said the briefing in London dealt with a number of issues, primarily a potential Israeli attack on an Iranian reactor. Safavi said a small, experienced group of officials is lobbying for a preemptive strike against Israel. "The recent Israeli declarations and harsh rhetoric on a strike against Iran put ammunition in these individuals' hands," he said. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said in June that Israel would be forced to strike the Iranian nuclear reactor if Tehran continues to pursue its uranium enrichment program. Safavi said Tehran recently drafted a new policy for responding to an Israeli or American attack on its nuclear facilities. While the previous policy called for attacks against Israel and American interests in the Middle East and beyond, the new policy is to target Israel alone. He added that many Revolutionary Guard leaders want to respond to a U.S. attack on Iranian soil by striking Israel, as they believe Israel would be partner to any U.S. action. Safavi said that Iran's nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes only, and that Khamenei recently released a fatwa against the use of weapons of mass destruction, though the contents of that religious ruling have not yet been publicized. Regarding dialogue with the United States and the West, Safavi said Iran's decision would be influenced by the results of the U.S. presidential elections next month, as well as by the Iranian presidential elections in June and the economic situation in the Islamic Republic. Safavi also said that a victory by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would pave the way for dialogue with Washington, while a John McCain presidency would bolster Iran's extreme right, which opposes dialogue. If conditions are favorable following the U.S. election, he said, Iran could draw back from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration that "the nuclear case is closed," and put it back on the agenda. Safavi said he believed that U.S. sanctions on Iran have run their course, and that there would be no point in strengthening them. Tehran would therefore demand "firm and significant" U.S. measures in return for stopping uranium enrichment. He also said Ahmadinejad is not guaranteed victory in the June 2009 elections, particularly given the dire economic situation in Iran. Still, Iranian experts believe his only real competition is former president Mohammad Khatami, who has not yet joined the race. Safavi said the inflation rate in Iran is similar to that before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but that unrest among civilians today is not as strong. This is because the current government uses oil revenues to help the poor, he said.
By Barak Ravid,Haaretz Correspondent
As in the days of Noah...

OBAMA'S CHANGE:"Is this the change you wanted?"


Iranian parliament speaker says his country is leaning towards Democratic candidate in US presidential election 'because he is more flexible and rational'
Iranian parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Wednesday that Iran would prefer Democrat Barack Obama in the White House next year. Larijani also dismissed any idea that the US would attack Iran."We are leaning more in favor of Barack Obama because he is more flexible and rational, even though we know American policy will not change that much," Larijani said at a press conference during a visit to Bahrain. How to deal with Iran and the crisis over its nuclear drive has been one of the foreign policy issues in the Nov. 4 race for the White House between Obama and Republican John McCain.Larijani, a leading figure in the conservative camp in Iran, also said the United States was too busy dealing with the global financial crisis to consider waging an attack on Iran."The risk was low before," he said."But now I am 100% certain that the United States will not unleash a war against Iran. The economic crisis has cost the United States $1.4 trillion and Washington is working to resolve its internal problems and not a war."Washington severed ties with Iran in 1980 in the wake of the Islamic revolution. US President George W. Bush famously denounced the country as part of an "axis of evil".Tensions have mounted over Iran's nuclear program, which many Western countries believe is a cover for ambitions to build atomic weapons, although this is vehemently denied by Tehran.
PS:Of course Iran loves the idea of Obama as a president....He already said that he would sit down and talk to Ahmadinejad without preconditions....That Iran is a tiny country compared to the Soviet Union....He is the sorriest choice for a president....doesn't even know how many states the Union has...and BTW it's RUSSIA not Soviet Union anymore.....
Well:Hamas.Gadhafi,Louis Farrakhan,Hollywood,Russia,Iran,Odinga in Kenya, Planned Parenthood,Gays,Lesbians,Transexuals,Transgenders,unrepentant terrorists like Bill Ayers,Bernardine Dhorn,Black Liberation Theology supporters like Rev Wright,deceived so called "evangelical leaders", CFR, abortionists,infanticide supporters,ABC,MSNBC,liberal media in gral,communists,socialists,etc have expressed their support for him....
As in the days of Noah....

Russian-Americans back McCain

CULTURE of LIFE:At Least 32 Babies Were Saved During the Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity Yesterday

TROY, Ohio-Stand True, Christ-Centered Pro-life, just wrapped up their Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity on Tuesday, Oct. 21. As of this morning Stand True has been contacted by students about 32 babies who have been saved. Student around the country are telling Stand True about girls who changed their minds and chose life after reading literature or talking to pro-life students yesterday."I spent most of last night choking back the tears as I started to hear back from students," said Bryan Kemper, President of Stand True Ministries. "The stories kept coming in about girls deciding to keep their babies and hearts being changed."Students from over 4,700 campuses in 25 countries took part in the life changing event. This is the fifth year of the Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity and it keeps growing every year as more and more students are willing to give up their voice for those who will never have one.One student wrote Stand True, saying:"I attend a Baptist college so I knew I wouldn't get much of a chance to spread the word so after my last class I went down to the mall and was there for about 20 minutes before a group of teenage girls walked up to me and asked what I was doing. I handed them a paper and one started to cry.I took off the tape and asked what was wrong. I found out that 2 of those girls had just set up an appointment for an abortion.We sat and talked for almost an hour; it was clear that God was at work. Not only did these girls cancel the appointment but I had the privilege to lead them to the Lord.""I was surprised as to how much I prayed; I have never prayed that much in school, ever.There were originally five people doing it this morning and by the end of the day it doubled.I was super happy. You never know how many people are affected by the things you do.""There was another woman considering abortion, so again I broke my silence and had a 15 minute tear- session/convo with her and she too opted for adoption! I'm so far beyond ecstatic and I am yet again radically affected by this!""I am honored and humbled to be part of this event," said Kemper. "I pray my own children will have the courage and conviction to match the kids who participated in the Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity."Stand True and Students for Life of America are committed to continue to provide students with tools like the PLDSS, to help them be a voice for their generation. http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/oct/08102205.html
PS:I am beyond words,crying and praising the Lord for this!!!!Glory to God!
As in the days of Noah...