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BBC News - Netherlands 'halal homes' ignite religious row

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Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:34

11 December 2012Last updated at21:25 ETBy Anna HolliganBBC News, The NetherlandsRenovations in Amsterdam apartments - nicknamed "halal homes" in the press - have sparked a political row in the Netherlands.

About 180 apartments in Amsterdam have been given special makeovers which suit the wishes of Muslim residents. Features include individual taps that can be used for ritual cleansing before prayers and sliding doors to keep men and women apart.

Some right-wing politicians have been stirring up public opposition, warning that anyone asking for such modifications should "leave for Mecca".

From the outside, the apartments look no different from other social housing blocks in the residential area of Bos and Lommer, in the less opulent western reaches of the capital.

Aynur Yildrim gives a tour of her home with the enthusiasm of an inspired estate agent. In the bathroom she bends to reveal the lowered water point - a modification that, in some variation, might equally exist in non-religious homes. But it is the perceived religious aspect of these changes that has made them so controversial.

And it is in the tidy kitchen that the distinction is most striking, as Ms Yildrim shows off the sliding doors.

"I wanted a closed kitchen, in order to be able to close the kitchen off now and then for a bit more privacy. Sometimes we like to be separated, the women on one side and the men on the other."

Wim de Waard of the housing association Eigen Haard insisted that the changes were "absolutely not religiously inspired - they are just practical adaptations". The adaptations followed consultations with local residents, including Muslim groups.

Mr de Waard stressed that apartments were not reserved for Muslims - homes were assigned on the basis of rank on the waiting list, size of household and income.

Wilders outragedFor many Dutch people, living in a historically tolerant and liberal country, the idea of separating men and women has led to some criticism that these buildings are effectively condoning some kind of gender inequality.

The controversial anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders accused the Dutch authorities of subsidising a "medieval gender apartheid".

He has publicly prophesied about an impending "ghettoisation" of Dutch neighbourhoods - not unusually strong words from a man who once appeared in court for his strident rhetoric. Mr Wilders was cleared of inciting religious hatred two years ago.

After a poor performance in recent parliamentary elections, Mr Wilders may be angling to woo immigration-conscious right-wing voters again with his strong, headline-grabbing statements. Recent opinion polls suggest that if there were to be an election tomorrow, his Freedom Party (PVV) would win.

A Dutch property developer and PVV supporter said he was "shocked" by the "halal homes" concept.

"It's a ridiculous idea, I thought it was a joke," he complained.

"It turns into reality. The rules of the Koran are discrimination, it is stimulating discrimination. It's taking us back to medieval times."

"These immigrants are from lower social classes, they're not educated, they're bringing those values to our Dutch society - the opposite should happen, they should adapt to our modern and free values.

We should teach them to integrate. This is backwards. What if it were on buses? If we were to separate men and women on buses it would be like discrimination again, here in the Netherlands. It's crazy. I can't believe it. It frightens me."

Using tax revenueBut many residents in the area seem to accept that what their neighbours do in the privacy of their own homes is entirely up to them.

Tess Duijghuisen lives in the same block and said: "A lot of new people arrived here lately, a lot of young people like me, so trust me, there's no problem of ghettoisation.

"And there are a lot of exchanges between people from all nationalities, which makes life much nicer here."

On internet forums, some users have made light of the renovations, with comments such as, "I believe in the power of disco, please can I have a disco ball built into my apartment?"

When I asked Dutch followers on Twitter why the opposition, they told me "it's wrong that inequality should be subsidised by tax money" and that another country's traditions "may be offensive to others".

It is a debate over the public versus private spaces. When the public purse is used to part-fund modifications, which many see as the religious antithesis of traditional Dutch society, conflict emerges.

Public funding is actually in the form of a guarantee, the housing association says. Yet it is still perceived as a subsidy.

The housing association says the complex is completely mixed, that the homes have been renovated to improve their "rentability" and that it is just trying to keep everyone happy. Many would argue that that is a tough ambition to fulfil - whether in religion, politics or our private lives.

Belastingdienst zet commercile deurwaarders [bill collectors] in - Nieuws - VK

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Mon, 10 Dec 2012 08:17

Bewerkt door: redactie '' 10/12/12, 06:31 '' bron: ANP

(C) anp.

De Belastingdienst gaat commercile deurwaarders inzetten om kleinere belastingschulden te innen. Eigen deurwaarders van de dienst gaan ook 's avonds en in het weekend op pad om beslag te leggen bij mensen met een belastingschuld.

Dat meldt VVD-staatssecretaris Frans Weekers vandaag in een brief aan de Tweede Kamer. In totaal worden 1600 mensen extra ingezet voor het controleren van aangiftes en het binnenhalen van openstaande schulden. De hele operatie kost 157 miljoen euro, maar gaat de schatkist volgens Weekers 663 miljoen euro per jaar opleveren.

'Het overgrote deel van de belastingplichtigen is welwillend', zegt Weekers, en de Belastingdienst wil deze mensen zo veel mogelijk helpen. Bijvoorbeeld met de vooraf ingevulde belastingaangifte en andere vormen van dienstverlening. 'De kleine groep belastingplichtigen die echter een loopje probeert te nemen met de fiscus kan rekenen op zwaarder geschut, zoals de inzet van de deurwaarders en de FIOD. Met gerichte investeringen willen we een extra belastingopbrengst binnenhalen', aldus Weekers.

Sandy/Haiti

Nonprofit Report for ARTISTS UNITED FOR HAITI INC

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Tue, 11 Dec 2012 20:23

Basic Organization InformationARTISTS UNITED FOR HAITI INC

Physical Address:Brooklyn, NY 11202 EIN:20-0397254Year Founded:2005 Ruling Year:2005 Sign in or create an account to see this organization's full address, contact information, and more!

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Key Financial SCAN FeaturesFinancial Health Dashboard: Highlights key financial trends and ratios for a selected nonprofit organization over a period of up to five years.Peer Comparison Dashboard: Compares the organization's financials with up to five peer nonprofits that you select.Graphical Analysis: Provides multi-year graphs and an interpretive guide in a format ready to present to your clients.Printable PDF Report: Provides a complete analysis of the organization for your records. The full report tells you what to look for and why it matters.Advanced Search: Allows you to search by EIN (Employer Identification Number), organization name, city, state, revenue, expenses, and assets.Financial StatementsSubscribe to GuideStar Premium to view this information, if available.

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Live Streaming 12-12-12 Concert For Hurricane Sandy Relief

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Source: Crooks and Liars

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 09:39

What a great concert! I saw Bruce, Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, The Stones and Eric Clapton in between working so far. There's still a lot of great music left.

You can donate here. The link is a bit slow to open so hang in there.

Watch a livestream of the concert above, and donate to Sandy relief efforts below; proceeds will go to the poverty-fighting Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims across the tri-state area.

Shortly after the show, 24 live tracks will hit iTunes for $12.99, with proceeds from sales also going towards the Robin Hood Relief Fund. A physical album release is in the works.

Update: The Who rocked the Garden!

To donate you can also call 1-855-465-HELP website www.121212concert.org

121212 Sandy Concert Raises Over $50 Million For Hurricane Victims

It was a grand affair attended by Robin Hood Foundation supporters. You know who they are, don't you? All the fat cats, greedy bankers, hedge fund masters of the universe, and other 0.1%ers who paid $500, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 (and much more for skyboxes and premium seats) to watch a cavalcade of rock and roll super stars assembled by Harvey Weinstein and others. I was fortunate to attend the gala and experience one of the most mind-boggling exhibitions of generosity by the haves for the have-nots, and the newly-minted needy. During the festivities, one of the Robin Hood officials stopped by to tell us that the proceeds had topped $50 million about half way through the show. I suspect the amount ultimately collected will be substantially greater.

One of the speakers indicated that the concert was being televised to more than two billion people worldwide, reminiscent of the "Live Aid Concert" held simultaneously in Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium and London's Wembley Stadium in 1985. Celebrities cajoled the attendees and the viewers watching at home to give whatever they could. The list of stars who participated is a who's who of the entertainment industry. Governors Chris Christie (N.J.) and Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) were present, and recognized for their leadership during the storm.

Syria

Syrian rebels unveil homemade tank

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Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 06:44

From a distance it looks rather like a big rusty metal box but closer inspection reveals the latest achievement of Syrian rebels: a homemade armoured vehicle waiting to be deployed. Sham II, named after ancient Syria, is built from the chassis of a car and touted by rebels as "100 percent made in Syria."

Via Russia Today

(h/t Weasel Zippers)

VIDEO-Deputy Secretary Burns Invites Syrian Opposition Leadership to Washington

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Thu, 13 Dec 2012 10:30

(Reuters soundbites from press conference following meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People)Today the United States has taken an important step forward. We now recognize the Syrian Opposition Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We have extended an invitation to Mouaz al-Khatib and the coalition leadership to visit Washington at their earliest opportunity. We have been intensively engaged with special envoy [Lakhdar] Brahimi, our Russian counterparts, and other partners to assist him in his efforts to bring about a real political transition, as outlined in the Geneva communique.

The step that we took with regard to the designation of the al-Nusra Front raises an alarm about a very different kind of future for Syria, about the direction that a group, in this case al-Nusra, would try to take Syria, to impose its will and to try to threaten the social fabric of Syria.

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Friends of Syria officially recognise opposition coalition

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Source: euronews

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 15:52

Two Iranian dissidents have been awarded the EU's annual Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought but were unable to come to Strasbourg to collect it in person. Two empty chairs marked where they should have sat. Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who represents opposition activists, is'...

SOC: Mouaz al-Khatib

U.S. poised to recognize Syria opposition council, as it blacklists powerful rebel group - CBS News

Yaser Tabbara, spokesman and legal advisor to the Syrian Opposition Council,

Yaser Tabbara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fighting the Syrian Regime From a Chicago Office - NYTimes.com

Back in Chicago, in 2008, Mr. Tabbara was a founder of Zarzour, Khalil & Tabbara, a law firm started with fellow DePaul alumni that mainly assists nonprofit organizations and immigrants with legal issues. Last year he rolled out Project Mobilize, an organization that supports Muslim political candidates in the Chicago area.

BBC News - Guide to the Syrian opposition

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Wed, 12 Dec 2012 05:27

12 November 2012Last updated at05:45 ETMore than 18 months after the uprising began in Syria, the opposition remains fractious and deeply divided.

The wide variety of political groups, exiled dissidents, grassroots activists and armed militants have been unable to agree on how to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Several groups, however, have tried to form coalitions to unite opposition supporters in Syria and gain international help and recognition.

Here is a guide to some of the most prominent groups.

On 11 November 2012, Syrian opposition factions agreed to set up a new and more inclusive 60-member leadership council at a meeting in Qatar.

It is hoped the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which will include members within Syria and abroad, will be recognised formally as the country's sole legitimate representative, and become the conduit for all financial and possibly military aid. It will also administer areas controlled by rebel forces and plan for a post-Assad transition.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the previously dominant opposition umbrella group which is widely viewed as ineffective, consumed by infighting and little respected on the ground, will control a minority of the seats in the leadership council.

The National Coalition's president is Moaz al-Khatib, a Sunni Muslim cleric who was once imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and was jailed several times for criticising the president before leaving Syria in 2012.

Following his election in Doha, Mr Khatib immediately called on soldiers to abandon the Syrian army and on all sects and ethnic groups to unite.

The vice-presidents are Riad Seif, a businessman and veteran dissident, and Suhair al-Atassi, a descendent of a famous political family and a woman who held one of the last open political discussion groups in Damascus. They are expected to be joined by a Kurdish figure.

Mustafa Sabbagh, a businessman who helped the Syrian diaspora organise a humanitarian relief effort, is the secretary general.

'One leadership'A blueprint for the National Coalition was outlined in a document published by Mr Seif on 1 November, which called for the creation of a Syrian National Initiative (SNI).

Mr Seif called for revolutionary and political opposition factions to "unite under one leadership framework to end Syrians' suffering and transition Syria to a democratic, civil, pluralistic, strong and stable state".

He argued that such a leadership framework would ensure that the body would enjoy the broad support of the Syrian people and thus had the legitimacy to be recognised as their sole representative.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to give firm US support for the National Coalition's creation on the same day.

She said the SNC could "no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition" and called for an opposition leadership structure that could "speak to every segment and every geographic part of Syria".

'Liberated' territoriesMr Seif said the SNI would be based on the Cairo conference documents to which opposition factions agreed in July 2012.

Its leadership would support and communicate with the internal opposition, be active on the international front, and guarantee that there would be no political vacuum following the removal from power of President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, Mr Seif added.

Its stated goals were:

Preserving national sovereignty and independence of decisionsPreserving geographic unityPreserving the people's unityEmphasising a political transition can only begin after "Bashar al-Assad and the symbols of his regime are brought down", and "those responsible for the spilling of Syrian blood are brought to trial"Emphasising the importance of establishing a civil, pluralistic and democratic stateThe SNI would also seek to establish a fund to support the Syrian people, support the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), administer "liberated" territories, plan for the transitional period, and secure international recognition.

All factions of the political and military opposition will be invited to participate in the SNI and set up four distinct bodies:

Initiative Body, which will include representatives from political groups, local councils, and "revolutionary forces" as well as "national figures"Supreme Military Council, which will include representatives from military councils and rebel brigadesJudicial CommitteeTransitional government, which will be made up of technocratsReaction within the SNC has been mixed, with several groups and leaders expressing concern that the council will be marginalised because it will only control 22 out of the 60 seats in the leadership group.

However, the SNC's new chairman, George Sabra, asserted: "This is a serious step against the regime and a serious step towards freedom."

The National Co-ordination Committee (NCC), which represents the internal political opposition groups that reject violence and want to negotiate with the government, has not committed to participating.

NCC deputy leader Hassan Abdul Azim said it had not been invited to Doha, but stressed that it supported the unification of the opposition.

The Syrian National Council (SNC) is a coalition opposition groups formed in October 2011 to offer a credible alternative to the Syrian government and serving as a single point of contact for the international community.

The current president is George Sabra, a Christian and a veteran leftist dissident.

He replaced Abdelbaset Sayda, a Kurd, in November 2012, shortly before the creation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

Mr Sayda and his predecessor, Burhan Ghalioun, were both criticised for failing to reconcile different groups within the opposition and present a united front.

The SNC's website says it is committed to the following principles:

Working to overthrow the regime using all legal meansAffirming national unity among all components of Syrian society and rejecting all calls for ethnic strifeSafeguarding the non-violent character of the Syrian revolutionProtecting national independence and sovereignty, and rejecting foreign military interventionIt has laid out plans for a transitional period which would see it:

Form an interim administrationHold an all-inclusive national convention on democratic changeOrganise the election of a constitutional assembly within a year to draft a new constitution and hold free parliamentary elections within six months of the new constitution being approvedForm a judicial commission to investigate crimes against humanity and form a national reconciliation commissionThe new Syria, the SNC states on its website, will be a "democratic, pluralistic, and civil state; a parliamentary republic with sovereignty of the people based on the principles of equal citizenship with separation of powers, smooth transfer of power, the rule of law, and the protection and guarantee of the rights of minorities".

The SNC, which is dominated by Syria's majority Sunni Muslim community, has struggled to win over Christians and members of President Assad's Alawite sect, who each make up about 10% of the population and have so far stayed loyal to the government. The council's primacy has also been challenged by the National Co-ordination Committee (NCC), an opposition bloc that still functions within Syria and is led by longstanding dissidents, some of whom are wary of the Islamists within the SNC. Several members of the SNC have also complained about its ineffectual leadership.

The SNC has also found it difficult to work with the Free Syrian Army. However, the two groups have agreed to co-ordinate their operations and the SNC has urged the international community to support the rebels.

Following the creation of the National Coalition, Mr Sabra insisted that the SNC would not be "subsumed under anybody".

"The SNC is older than this initiative or any other initiative, and it has a deep political and regional structure," he said.

Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanuni - the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominates the SNC - said there had been "much exaggeration" in the talk of divisions within the opposition.

He also complained that the SNC had never received the financial and military support it needed to overthrow the government, and accused the international community of failing in its commitments to the Syrian people.

Formed in September 2011, the National Co-ordination Committee (NCC) is made up of 13 left-leaning political parties, three Kurdish political parties, and independent political and youth activists.

It is led by the veteran opposition figure Hussein Abdul Azim.

Continue reading the main storyThe slogan 'the overthrow of the regime' is unpractical, unrealistic and useless''

End QuoteQadri JamilNational Co-ordination Committee memberThe NCC differs from the Syrian National Council (SNC) on the questions of dialogue with the government and foreign intervention.

The NCC calls for dialogue conditional on the withdrawal of the military from the streets, the end of attacks on peaceful protesters by security forces, and the release of all political prisoners.

The group is strongly opposed to any form of foreign intervention that would involve military measures, such as a no-fly zone, and would prefer economic sanctions and other diplomatic measures to increase pressure on President Assad.

"We reject foreign intervention - we think it is as dangerous as tyranny. We reject both," Mr Azim said last year.

It is the only group to have called for conditional dialogue with the government, arguing it remains the least costly route to political transition.

Despite this, the NCC has refused to engage in the government's national dialogue initiative, saying that the authorities are merely trying to buy time while they ''liquidate the forces of the uprising''.

The NCC has also been reluctant to affiliate itself with the SNC and challenged its primacy, with some members said to be wary of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the umbrella group.

The Free Syrian Army was formed in August 2011 by army deserters based in Turkey and led by Riyad al-Asaad, a former air force colonel.

At its founding, the group said it would seek to "work hand in hand with the people to achieve freedom and dignity, topple the regime, protect the revolution and the country's resources and stand up to the irresponsible military machine which is protecting the regime".

Col Asaad claims to have as many as 40,000 men under his command and that soldiers are defecting every day and being assigned tasks by the FSA. However, analysts believe there may be no more than 10,000.

They are also still poorly armed, and many have only basic military training. The FSA has admitted that it is unable to directly confront the Syrian army, which is estimated to have 200,000 soldiers, and hold on to territory.

Nevertheless, a growing number of defections, partly caused by sectarian division, is weakening the military, strengthening the FSA and increasing the violence. The army's rank and file is largely Sunni while its leadership is mainly Alawite.

'Liberated'The FSA's fighters were limited at the start of the uprising to small-scale attacks on military convoys and patrols in the north-western province of Idlib, which borders Turkey.

However, it was not long before operations spread to the cities of Homs and Hama, and major rebellions were launched, triggering a series of government crackdowns.

In September 2011, FSA fighters and other army defectors took control of parts of the town of Rastan, just north of Homs. In early October, government forces launched an offensive involving hundreds of armoured vehicles, only recapturing Rastan after a week of clashes.

Over the next two months, the FSA carried out increasingly effective attacks on security forces, particularly in Idlib. In late December, the army stormed the mountain stronghold of Jabal al-Zawiya and killed some 200 rebels and male civilians, according to activists.

In January 2012, residents of Zabadani, a mountain town north-west of Damascus, said it had been "liberated" by the FSA and that the army had agreed to a ceasefire. The truce lasted for several days before troops launched an assault to retake the town.

Later that month, a string of the capital's eastern suburbs briefly fell into FSA control, bringing the armed rebellion to the city's outskirts for the first time. However, security forces forced the rebels to retreat within days.

The FSA suffered a major setback in February, when the military launched a major offensive on its strongholds in Homs, notably the district of Baba Amr. Activists said an estimated 700 people were killed as rockets and shells rained down for nearly a month. Troops moved into the city in early March after the FSA staged a "tactical withdrawal".

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Jeremy Bowen goes inside Syria's "free" town of Zabadani

The insurrection appeared to be on the verge of being crushed, and the rebels spent the next two months regrouping.

In early April, the FSA received a much-needed boost when several Western powers announced that they would provide millions of dollars in "non-lethal" aid, including communications and intelligence support. Gulf states meanwhile agreed to set up a fund to pay the salaries of FSA fighters, and reportedly discussed plans to send money to the rebels to help them buy weapons and ammunition on the black market.

Later that month, the FSA and the government said they would abide by the ceasefire negotiated by the UN and Arab League's envoy, Kofi Annan, as part of his peace plan. However, both sides accused each other of violating the conditions and fighting resumed.

By the beginning of June, dozens of people were dying every day despite appeals for calm. The FSA announced it was no longer committed to the ceasefire and had resumed operations to "defend our people".

'Guerrilla tactics'In mid-July, the rebels launched audacious and deadly attacks in the heart of Damascus for the first time, targeting military and intelligence bases and briefly taking control of several areas before the government sent in large numbers of troops and tanks to recapture them.

The group also claimed that an affiliate was behind the bombing inside the headquarters of the National Security Bureau (NSB) in Damascus on 18 July, which killed President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Gen Assef Shawkat, Defence Minister Gen Daoud Rajiha, former Defence Minister Gen Hassan Turkomani and NSB chief Gen Hisham Ikhtiar.

Less than a week later, the FSA launched a large-scale attack on security forces in Aleppo, reportedly prompting the military to send thousands of reinforcements, as well as deploying warplanes to strafe rebel-held areas for the first time in 16 months.

Col Malik al-Kurdi, a spokesman for the FSA command, said the rebels would not try to hold on to the territory they had seized in Syria's two biggest cities because they could not confront the better-equipped regular army or the elite Republican Guards.

"The Free Syrian Army is carrying out a war of harassing the regime army until it is exhausted, using guerrilla tactics," he told the Washington Post. "We can't keep control of an area, so this is a circular operation, moving from one place to another, one city to another."

Col Kurdi pointed to the capture of a number of border crossings with Turkey and Iraq, some of which changed hands several times over the period of a few days.

"We cannot say the Free Syrian Army is in complete control, and we cannot say the regime army is in complete control, and this will stay the same until the Free Syrian Army gets heavy weapons and there are more defections."

FSA fighters began by using only light weapons, but do already have more sophisticated and heavier weaponry that has either been captured or smuggled in from abroad.

US officials and Arab intelligence officers told the New York Times in June that automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some anti-tank weapons were being funnelled, mostly across the Turkish border, by way of a "shadowy network of intermediaries", including Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A small number of CIA officers were also operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters would receive the weapons, in an effort to prevent them falling into the hands of groups allied to al-Qaeda, they added. They were also reportedly providing satellite imagery and intelligence on troop movements, and advising how to establish command and control systems.

Human rights abusesUp until now, the FSA has functioned primarily as an umbrella group for army defectors, civilians who have taken up arms and Islamist militants. Fighters are believed to have only limited or no contact with each other or the FSA's leaders in Turkey.

Though they are working towards a similar goal - the overthrow of President Assad - many are thought to adopt the name "Free Syrian Army" to underscore their revolutionary aspirations, their army background or that they are not pro-government militiamen.

The FSA leadership told the UN Human Rights Council in February that commanders in the field did not receive orders from it and currently made their own rules of engagement. The leadership saw its role as facilitating co-ordination and ensuring media outreach.

The council said it had documented instances of gross human rights abuses committed by members of various FSA groups. In Homs, FSA members were found to have tortured and executed suspected members of the pro-government militia, the Shabiha, in retaliation for abuses committed by them.

Some armed civilians in Homs, including those belonging to the FSA, have also allegedly sought to kill the family members of Shabiha and security forces personnel to exact blood revenge, or take them hostage.

The FSA's leadership has also found it difficult to work with the main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has publicly stated that it wants to safeguard the uprising's "non-violent character".

However, in January the two groups agreed to co-ordinate their operations more closely through a liaison office and the SNC has appealed to the international community to support the rebels "by means of military advisers, training and provision of arms to defend themselves".

The FSA has also acknowledged that some foreign jihadist militants, including those linked to al-Qaeda, have travelled to Syria to join its ranks, but claims they do not play a decisive role. A shadowy group calling itself the al-Nusra Front has said it was behind a series of suicide bombings which have rocked Damascus since January.

US invites Syrian opposition leader for talks after backing new coalition | World news | guardian.co.uk

Assad Fires SCUDS at Rebels, U.S. Says, Escalating War in Syria - NYTimes.com

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:37

Maysun/European Pressphoto Agency

Fighters with the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo watched a government jet fly by on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON '-- President Bashar al-Assad's forces have resorted to firing ballistic missiles at rebel fighters inside Syria, Obama administration officials said Wednesday, escalating a nearly two-year-old civil war as the government struggles to slow the momentum of a gaining insurgency.

Administration officials said that over the last week, Assad forces for the first time had fired at least six Soviet-designed Scud missiles in the latest bid to push back rebels who have consistently chipped away at the government's military superiority.

In a conflict that has already killed more than 40,000 Syrians, the government has been forced to augment its reliance on troops with artillery, then air power and now missiles as the rebels have taken over military bases and closed in on the capital, Damascus. The escalation has not changed Washington's decision to avoid military intervention in Syria '-- as long as chemical weapons are not used '-- but it did prompt a rebuke.

''As the regime becomes more and more desperate, we see it resorting to increased lethality and more vicious weapons moving forward, and we have in recent days seen missiles deployed,'' said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman.

President Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons would cross a ''red line,'' implying that it might lead to an American military response.

Mr. Assad's decision to fire Scuds '-- not known for their precision '-- inside his own country appears directly related to the rebel ability to take command of military bases and seize antiaircraft weapons. The Scuds have been fired since Monday from the An Nasiriyah Air Base, north of Damascus, according to American officials familiar with the classified intelligence reports about the attacks. The target was the Sheikh Suleiman base north of Aleppo, which rebel forces had occupied.

The development may also represent a calculation by the Syrian leadership that it can resort to such lethal weapons without the fear of international intervention, partly because Washington had set its tolerance threshold at the use of chemical weapons. Mr. Obama has never suggested that the United States would take action to stop attacks against Syrian rebels and civilians with conventional weapons, no matter how severe.

''This may be another example of the unintended consequence of the red line the administration has drawn with regard to chemical weapons,'' said Joseph Holliday, a former Army intelligence officer and a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a nongovernmental research group. ''Assad views every weapon short of chemicals as fair game.''

The disclosure about the Scuds came as representatives of more than 100 nations gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco, for a conference intended to give a political lift to the Syrian opposition, which is formally known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. And it came amid an increase in violence in Syria, including reports of a new massacre of about 100 Alawites, Mr. Assad's sect, and a large bombing in the capital.

Mr. Obama, in an interview on Tuesday with ABC News, formally recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

William Burns, the deputy secretary of state who led the American team to the Morocco gathering, said Wednesday that he had invited opposition leaders to Washington, including Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the coalition leader.

Mr. Khatib, however, took issue with a decision by the Obama administration to classify Al Nusra Front '-- one of several armed groups fighting Mr. Assad '-- as a foreign terrorist organization.

''The logic under which we consider one of the parts that fights against the Assad regime as a terrorist organization is a logic one must reconsider,'' Mr. Khatib said. ''We can differ with parties that adopt political ideas and visions different from ours. But we ensure that the goal of all rebels is the fall of the regime.''

Obama administration officials have said that the Nusra Front is an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that has sought to foment sectarian violence there and topple the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

Reporting was contributed by Mark Landler from Washington; Aida Alami from Marrakesh, Morocco; Alan Cowell from London; Anne Barnard, Hwaida Saad and Hania Mourtada from Beirut, Lebanon; and Hala Droubi from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Fiscal Cliff

Subterfuge - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As Obama demands rich Americans pay more in taxes, the IRS reveals 36 Obama aides are far behind in their taxes by Andrew Malcolm - Investors.com

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:39

How embarrassing this must be for President Obama, whose major speech theme so far this campaign season has been that every single American, no matter how rich, should pay their "fair share" of taxes.

Because how unfair -- indeed, un-American -- it is for an office worker like, say, Warren Buffet's secretary to dutifully pay her taxes, while some well-to-do people with better educations and higher incomes end up paying a much smaller tax rate.

Or, worse, skipping their taxes altogether.

A new report just out from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 36 of President Obama's executive office staff owe the country $833,970 in back taxes. These people working for Mr. Fair Share apparently haven't paid any share, let alone their fair share.

Previous reports have shown how well-paid Obama's White House staff is, with 457 aides pulling down more than $37 million last year. That's up seven workers and nearly $4 million from the Bush administration's last year.

Nearly one-third of Obama's aides make more than $100,000 with 21 being paid the top White House salary of $172,200, each.

The IRS' 2010 delinquent tax revelations come as part of a required annual agency report on federal employees' tax compliance. Turns out, an awful lot of folks being paid by taxpayers are not paying their own income taxes.

The report finds that thousands of federal employees owe the country more than $3.4 billion in back taxes. That's up 3% in the past year.

That scale of delinquency could annoy voters, hard-pressed by their own costs, fears and stubbornly high unemployment despite Joe Biden's many promises.

The tax offenders include employees of the U.S. Senate who help write the laws imposed on everyone else. They owe $2.1 million. Workers in the House of Representatives owe $8.5 million, Department of Education employees owe $4.3 million and over at Homeland Security, 4,697 workers owe about $37 million. Active duty military members owe more than $100 million.

The Treasury Department, where Obama nominee Tim Geithner had to pay up $42,000 in his own back taxes before being confirmed as secretary, has 1,181 other employees with delinquent taxes totaling $9.3 million.

As usual, the Postal Service, with more than 600,000 workers, has the most offenders (25,640), who also owe the most -- almost $270 million. Veterans Affairs has 11,659 workers owing the IRS $151 million while the Energy Department that was so quick to dish out more than $500 million to the Solyndra folks has 322 employees owing $5 million.

The country's chief law enforcement agency, the Department of Justice, has 2,069 employees who are nearly $17 million behind in taxes. Like Operation Fast and Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder has apparently missed them too.

As with ordinary people, the IRS attempts to negotiate back-tax payment plans with all delinquents, whose names cannot be released. But according to current federal law, the only federal employees who can be fired for not paying taxes are IRS workers.

RELATED:NHL champion goalie snubs Obama

Tourists barred at Disney World so Obama can extol value of tourists

GOP: 'Nothing wrong with the state of our Union' that free Americans can't fix

VIDEO-Pelosi Accuses GOP Of Lack Of Concern For Kwanzaa

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Thu, 13 Dec 2012 07:07

Pelosi Accuses GOP Of Lack Of Concern For Kwanzaa

Bank$ters

Treasury Exempts Foreign Exchange Swaps from Definition of ''Swap''

Link to Article

Source: EconomicPolicyJournal.com

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 16:15

More government regulations are always a bad idea, however, it should be noted when banksters get special privileges around regs.Dodd-Frank calls for regulation of swaps. The Treasury just announced that its final determination is that foreign exchange swaps are exempted from the definition of "swap" and are not to be regulated under Dodd-Frank:

The final determination exempts foreign exchange swaps and foreign exchange forwards from the definition of "swap" under the Commodity Exchange Act ("CEA"). On October 28, 2010, the Treasury previously solicited public comment on a wide range of issues relating to whether foreign exchange swaps and foreign exchange forwards should be exempt from the definition of the term "swap" under the CEA (75 FR 66426). The notice of proposed determination seeking to exempt foreign exchange swaps and foreign exchange forwards from the definition of the term "swap" under the CEA was published on May 5, 2011 (76 FR 25774).

What's particularly noteworthy about this is that the Federal Reserve did a lot of its propping up of foreign banks during the financial crisis via foreign exchange swap lines. Izabella Kaminska at FT wrote last year:Some believe that of all the emergency facilities initiated by global central banks in 2008 the most helpful was in fact the introduction of unlimited FX swap lines.

Some things you just need to keep in a dark place---no mid-level snooping bureaucrats around this arena, where the big boy government operators like to play.

HSBC, Too Big to Indict? - NYTimes.com

VIDEO-HSBC: Preferred Bank Of Drug Cartels & Money Launderers - Home - The Daily Bail

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:24

Why no criminal charges in HSBC case?

Excellent report from tonight's CBS national news broadcast.

---

(CBS News) As bank slogans go, they don't come worse than this: "The preferred financial institution of drug cartels and money launderers."

That's a quote Tuesday in a U.S. Department of Justice report about HSBC Holdings, one of the largest banks in the world. To avoid criminal prosecution, HSBC admitted Tuesday that it laundered more than $800 million for Mexican drug cartels, and covered up illegal transactions for Burma, Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Libya.

The British bank will pay $1.9 billion to the U.S. government, the largest such fine in history.

It's a case that has everything -- everything accept an arrest. That struck some as odd, because in 80 pages of court documents, the bank admits to almost going out of its way to act as a financial clearing house for international pariahs and drug dealers.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said: "HSBC is paying a heavy price for its conduct, and under the terms of today's agreement, if the bank fails to comply with the agreement in any way, any way at all, we reserve the right as the government to fully prosecute it."

Under the terms of Tuesday's settlement, nobody at HSBC will face criminal charges.

Notre Dame professor Jimmy Gurule, who investigated money-laundering cases for the Treasury Department, said: "We're not talking about mere negligence. We're talking about a criminal scheme that was adopted as a policy of HSBC that involved looking the other way in regard to suspicious transactions involving money laundering."

Some would say that the message is, if you break all the laws you can, until you get caught, you may have to pay a lot of money, but you're not gonna go to jail.

U.S Attorney Lynch, who is one of the architects of Tuesday's settlement, disputed that idea, and said: "That's a very short-sighted view, I think, because in this case they're obviously paying a great deal of money, but they also have to literally had to turn their company inside out. And the message should be that that's what you have to do."

As for the lack of criminal prosecutions, the feds said that they never found one bank official, or any collection of bank officials acting together, that were doing this on purpose. They painted a picture of a disorganized bank that was collecting all these fees either not knowing, or not wanting to know where it all came from.

EUROLand

Eurosceptic Norway celebrates EU's Nobel Peace Prize

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Source: euronews

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 07:13

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti appeared calm among other European leaders who were in Norway receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. With the financial markets rattled over his surprise early resignation, he refused to show any alarm. Instead he played down fears that Italy'...

IMF is onzeker of Portugal doelen haalt

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Source: VK: Home

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 12:04

Bewerkt door: redactie '' 12/12/12, 11:59 '' bron: ANP

(C) ANP.

Portugal kan door de slechte economische omstandigheden mogelijk niet aan de voorwaarden voor financile steun voldoen. Dat liet het hoofd van de IMF-missie in Portugal, Abebe Selassie, woensdag weten.

De IMF-econoom waarschuwde dat de aanhoudende bezuinigingen in Portugal zware druk zetten op de economie. Daardoor is het onzeker of de doelen die als voorwaarde voor financile steun zijn gesteld haalbaar zijn.

Europa en het IMF beloofden Portugal in 2011 voor 78 miljard euro aan noodkredieten. In ruil daarvoor moeten omvangrijke bezuinigingen en belastingverhogingen worden doorgevoerd, zodat de overheidsfinancin weer op orde komen. Die maatregelen hebben afgelopen jaar mede gezorgd voor een forse economische krimp in het Zuid-Europese land.

UKIP Nigel Farage - EU leaders are like drug addicts

Nederlanders googelen veel op crisis en tv - Nieuws - VK

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:54

12/12/12, 06:13 '' bron: ANP

(C) AFP.

Het zoekgedrag van Nederlanders op internet wordt beÝnvloed door de economische malaise. Afgelopen jaar werd opmerkelijk veel gegoogeld op zoektermen als restschuld, scheefwonen en nivelleren. Ook is te zien dat veel mensen hun huis maar niet kwijt raken, want er werd ten opzichte van 2011 zeer veel gezocht op 'huis verhuren'.

Dat blijkt uit de jaarlijkse 'tijdgeestlijsten' van zoekmachine Google, die woensdag zijn gepubliceerd. Daarin zijn ook de verkiezingen van dit jaar prominent aanwezig. De snelst stijgende term van alle zoekopdrachten in het Nederlands ten opzichte van 2011 is 'stemwijzer', stelt Google.

Van de politieke partijen is de SP de meest gezochte politieke partij, gevolgd door PvdA en VVD. Geert Wilders is ondanks het zetelverlies, net als vorig jaar, de meest gezochte politicus in Nederland. Premier Mark Rutte (VVD) en PvdA-partijleider Diederik Samsom volgen direct na hem.

Voice of HollandNederlandse internetgebruikers zoeken daarnaast volop naar informatie over televisie: Voetbal International is het meest gezochte tv-programma, Sandra van Nieuwland de meest gezochte kandidaat van The Voice of Holland en boerin Henrieke de meest gezochte deelnemer aan Boer Zoekt Vrouw. Wesley Sneijder was dit jaar de meest gezochte voetballer en Epke Zonderland de meest gezochte Olympische sporter.

Het zoekgedrag van Nederlanders verschilt wel per regio, blijkt uit de lijsten van Google. Zo werd in de provincie Friesland het meest gezocht naar 'kinderopvang' en in studentenstad Groningen werd 'langstudeerboete' het vaakst in het zoekbalkje getypt. Van alle Nederlanders zoeken de inwoners van Flevoland het meest naar 'huis kopen' en 'vacature'. De meeste mensen die naar 'zorgpremie' zoeken, wonen in Drenthe.

Google keek voor het onderzoek vooral naar de nieuwste trends in het onlinezoekgedrag. Gemeten in absolute aantallen werd dit jaar, net als vorig jaar, het meest gezocht op Facebook. Volgens een woordvoerder komt dat doordat veel mensen de website van Google als startpagina gebruiken, en vervolgens via de zoekmachine naar de populaire socialenetwerksite surfen.

Berlusconi attacks Monti's record

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Source: BBC News - Home

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 11:12

11 December 2012Last updated at06:01 ETItaly's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has launched a pre-election attack on his successor, Mario Monti, saying the country is now worse off.

He accused Mr Monti him of following policies which benefited Berlin, saying Germany had lowered its own borrowing costs at the expense of other states.

Mr Monti is due to resign after Mr Berlusconi's party withdrew its support for his government on Thursday.

Mr Berlusconi will run in the February election, but Mr Monti has not decided.

There has been speculation that Mr Monti could run in the election, by forming a new party or joining forces with a centrist grouping; or, that he could run for president when the job becomes vacant next year.

It is the sixth election campaign for Mr Berlusconi, leader of the conservative People of Freedom party, who is now 76.

The sudden political uncertainty in Italy, the third-biggest economy in the eurozone, has unsettled financial markets.

Spread 'trick'But Mr Berlusconi dismissed news on Tuesday that the spread - the differential between Italian and benchmark German bonds, a closely watched measure of investor unease - had widened further.

"What do we care about the spread?" he told Canale 5 television, part of his own media empire.

"The spread is a trick and an invention with which they tried to bring down the majority that ruled the country," he said, referring to his last government, which collapsed just over a year ago when he resigned amid panic on the markets.

"Monti followed policies that were too German-centric," he continued.

"All the economic statistics have worsened."

Mr Berlusconi is currently far behind in the polls, which puts a centre-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani in the lead. It broadly supports a continuation of Mr Monti's economic programme.

The office of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano announced at the weekend that Mr Monti had "made clear his intention to present his resignation".

Speaking to Italian state TV on Tuesday, Mr Monti, a well-respected economist who was called in to form a crisis cabinet after Mr Berlusconi's resignation, did not comment directly on his future.

However, he said he wanted to continue playing a role in influencing opinion in Italy.

"I think I did it when I was a professor, I'm trying to do it in this brief period when I'm prime minister," he said.

"I'm sure that whatever hat I'm wearing in future, I will continue to do it."

An election must be called within 70 days of the dissolution of parliament. Italy had been due to go to the polls by April at the latest.

VIDEO-Depardieu seeks tax exile in Belgium | euronews, world news

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 08:54

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti appeared calm among other European leaders who were in Norway receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. With the financial markets rattled over his surprise early resignation, he refused to show any alarm. Instead he played down fears that Italy'...

BBC News - Netherlands 'halal homes' ignite religious row

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:34

11 December 2012Last updated at21:25 ETBy Anna HolliganBBC News, The NetherlandsRenovations in Amsterdam apartments - nicknamed "halal homes" in the press - have sparked a political row in the Netherlands.

About 180 apartments in Amsterdam have been given special makeovers which suit the wishes of Muslim residents. Features include individual taps that can be used for ritual cleansing before prayers and sliding doors to keep men and women apart.

Some right-wing politicians have been stirring up public opposition, warning that anyone asking for such modifications should "leave for Mecca".

From the outside, the apartments look no different from other social housing blocks in the residential area of Bos and Lommer, in the less opulent western reaches of the capital.

Aynur Yildrim gives a tour of her home with the enthusiasm of an inspired estate agent. In the bathroom she bends to reveal the lowered water point - a modification that, in some variation, might equally exist in non-religious homes. But it is the perceived religious aspect of these changes that has made them so controversial.

And it is in the tidy kitchen that the distinction is most striking, as Ms Yildrim shows off the sliding doors.

"I wanted a closed kitchen, in order to be able to close the kitchen off now and then for a bit more privacy. Sometimes we like to be separated, the women on one side and the men on the other."

Wim de Waard of the housing association Eigen Haard insisted that the changes were "absolutely not religiously inspired - they are just practical adaptations". The adaptations followed consultations with local residents, including Muslim groups.

Mr de Waard stressed that apartments were not reserved for Muslims - homes were assigned on the basis of rank on the waiting list, size of household and income.

Wilders outragedFor many Dutch people, living in a historically tolerant and liberal country, the idea of separating men and women has led to some criticism that these buildings are effectively condoning some kind of gender inequality.

The controversial anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders accused the Dutch authorities of subsidising a "medieval gender apartheid".

He has publicly prophesied about an impending "ghettoisation" of Dutch neighbourhoods - not unusually strong words from a man who once appeared in court for his strident rhetoric. Mr Wilders was cleared of inciting religious hatred two years ago.

After a poor performance in recent parliamentary elections, Mr Wilders may be angling to woo immigration-conscious right-wing voters again with his strong, headline-grabbing statements. Recent opinion polls suggest that if there were to be an election tomorrow, his Freedom Party (PVV) would win.

A Dutch property developer and PVV supporter said he was "shocked" by the "halal homes" concept.

"It's a ridiculous idea, I thought it was a joke," he complained.

"It turns into reality. The rules of the Koran are discrimination, it is stimulating discrimination. It's taking us back to medieval times."

"These immigrants are from lower social classes, they're not educated, they're bringing those values to our Dutch society - the opposite should happen, they should adapt to our modern and free values.

We should teach them to integrate. This is backwards. What if it were on buses? If we were to separate men and women on buses it would be like discrimination again, here in the Netherlands. It's crazy. I can't believe it. It frightens me."

Using tax revenueBut many residents in the area seem to accept that what their neighbours do in the privacy of their own homes is entirely up to them.

Tess Duijghuisen lives in the same block and said: "A lot of new people arrived here lately, a lot of young people like me, so trust me, there's no problem of ghettoisation.

"And there are a lot of exchanges between people from all nationalities, which makes life much nicer here."

On internet forums, some users have made light of the renovations, with comments such as, "I believe in the power of disco, please can I have a disco ball built into my apartment?"

When I asked Dutch followers on Twitter why the opposition, they told me "it's wrong that inequality should be subsidised by tax money" and that another country's traditions "may be offensive to others".

It is a debate over the public versus private spaces. When the public purse is used to part-fund modifications, which many see as the religious antithesis of traditional Dutch society, conflict emerges.

Public funding is actually in the form of a guarantee, the housing association says. Yet it is still perceived as a subsidy.

The housing association says the complex is completely mixed, that the homes have been renovated to improve their "rentability" and that it is just trying to keep everyone happy. Many would argue that that is a tough ambition to fulfil - whether in religion, politics or our private lives.

Egypt

US sending 20 more F-16s to Egypt, despite turmoil in Cairo | Fox News

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Wed, 12 Dec 2012 09:03

Turmoil in Egypt isn't stopping a shipment of 20 F-16 fighter jets, including this one - already emblazoned with Egypt's flag. (Courtesy: Carl Richards)

Instability in Egypt, where a newly-elected Islamic government teeters over an angry population, isn't enough to stop the U.S. from sending more than 20 F-16 fighter jets, as part of a $1 billion foreign aid package.

The first four jets are to be delivered to Egypt beginning Jan. 22, a source at the naval air base in Fort Worth, where the planes have been undergoing testing, told FoxNews.com. The North African nation already has a fleet of more than 200 of the planes and the latest shipment merely fulfills an order placed two years ago. But given the uncertainty in Cairo, some critics wonder if it is wise to be sending more top gun planes.

''Should an overreaction [by Egypt] spiral into a broader conflict between Egypt and Israel, such a scenario would put U.S. officials in an embarrassing position of having supplied massive amounts of military hardware '... to both belligerents,'' said Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. ''Given Washington's fiscal woes, American taxpayers should no longer be Egypt's major arms supplier.''

''Given Washington's fiscal woes, American taxpayers should no longer be Egypt's major arms supplier.''

- Malou Innocent, the Cato Institute

The U.S. government ordered and paid for the fighter jets for Egypt's military as part of foreign aid for Egypt back in 2010, when Hosni Mubarak ruled. The fighter jets were supposed to be delivered in 2013, and delivery will go ahead as scheduled even though Hosni Mubarak has been removed from power and replaced by Mohamed Morsi, who led the Muslim Brotherhood before becoming Egypt's president.

Morsi was democratically elected, but last month attempted to seize dictatorial powers for himself. After widespread protests and violence in Egypt's capital of Cairo, Morsi backed off from his power grab. But he is pushing through a controversial new constitution for Egypt that would more strictly enforce Islamic Shariah law, and only recently said he reserves the right to have the military arrest protesters without charges.

"The Morsi-led Muslim Brotherhood government has not proven to be a partner for democracy as they had promised, given the recent attempted power grab," a senior Republican congressional aide told FoxNews.com.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, recently criticized U.S. military aid to Egypt:

''The Obama administration wants to simply throw money at an Egyptian government that the president cannot even clearly state is an ally of the United States,'' Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said.

The $213 million order, which is paid for by U.S. taxpayers and is part of Egypt's foreign aid package from America, had to be approved by lawmakers in Washington.While the basic F-16 has been a military workhorse for top air forces for more than 25 years, the cockpit electronics are constantly updated and the models Egypt is getting are the best defense contractor Lockheed Martin makes.

"This is a great day for Lockheed Martin and a testament to the enduring partnership and commitment we have made to the government of Egypt," said John Larson, vice president, Lockheed Martin F-16 programs. "We remain committed to providing our customer with a proven, advanced 4th Generation multirole fighter."

"In an air combat role, the F-16's maneuverability and combat radius exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft," the U.S. Air Force description of the plane reads.

"The F-16 can fly more than 500 miles, deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions."

A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. and Egypt have an important alliance that is furthered by the transfer.

"The U.S.-Egypt defense relationship has served as the cornerstone of our broader strategic partnership for over thirty years," said Lt. Col. Wesley Miller. "The delivery of the first set of F-16s in January 2013 reflects the U.S. commitment to supporting the Egyptian military's modernization efforts. Egyptian acquisition of F-16s will increase our militaries' interoperability, and enhance Egypt's capacity to contribute to regional mission sets."

The writer of this piece can be reached at maxim.lott@foxnews.com

Egypt's IMF loan deal postponed after Mohamed Morsi scraps tax increases | World news | The Guardian

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:53

Protesters gather in front of the presidential palace in Cairo. Photograph: Petr David Josek/AP

An International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt has been delayed until next month, intensifying the political crisis gripping the country, it was announced on Tuesday.

The announcement of the delay came as judges voted decisively against overseeing Saturday's referendum on a controversial new constitution. In a further sign of the seriousness of the country's political stalemate the defence minister in charge of Egypt's military, Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, called for a "national dialogue meeting" on Wednesday to try to find consensus between the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition groups.

The delay in the $4.8bn (£3bn) loan, which was agreed last month, occurs amid mounting protests against the government, which has faced accusations that it is behaving in an authoritarian fashion by issuing decrees and attempting to push through a new constitution.

As rival factions gathered in Cairo for more demonstrations, the finance minister, Mumtaz al-Said, said the delay in the loan agreement was intended to allow time to explain a heavily-criticised package of economic austerity measures to the Egyptian people.

"Of course the delay will have some economic impact, but we are discussing necessary measures [to address that] during the coming period," the minister told Reuters, adding: "I am optimistic '... everything will be well, God willing."

Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi, on Monday backed down on planned tax increases, which are seen as vital for the loan to go ahead, within hours of their being announced.

Opposition groups, already angry over other measures taken by Morsi, had greeted the tax measures, which included duties on alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and a range of goods and services, with furious criticism.

The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front (NSF), is to decide on Wednesday whether to boycott the referendum or campaign for a no vote.

The latest bout of unrest has so far claimed seven lives in clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and opponents who are also besieging the presidential palace.

The elite Republican Guard, which protects the palace, has yet to use force to keep protesters away from the graffiti-daubed building, now ringed with tanks, barbed wire and concrete barricades.

The army has told all sides to resolve their differences through dialogue, saying it would not allow Egypt to enter a "dark tunnel".

For the period of the referendum, the army has been granted police powers by Morsi, allowing it to arrest civilians.

However in the latest reversal for Morsi, the presidency was forced on Tuesday to clarify that anyone arrested by the army would face civil rather than military courts.

The military has portrayed itself as the guarantor of the nation's security but so far it has shown no appetite for a return to the frontline political role it played after the fall of the country's former leader Hosni Mubarak, which severely damaged its standing.

Morsi and his key allies in the Muslim Brotherhood have stumbled through a series of worsening crises since he was praised for his key role in mediating a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

In the immediate aftermath Morsi granted himself sweeping new powers that saw the biggest demonstration in Egypt since the revolution almost two years ago that ousted Mubarak.

In continuing street violence, masked men attacked a sit-in in the early hours of Tuesday morning, firing birdshot at the protesters.

2TTH

'Kate schuldig aan zelfmoord'

Link to Article

Source: Telegraaf.nl - prive

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 10:41

do 13 dec 2012, 10:54

van onze redactieAMSTERDAM - VIDEO - De altijd controversile popzanger Morrissey (53) heeft naar aanleiding van de zelfmoord van de Britse verpleegster Jacintha Saldanha keihard uitgehaald naar de Britse Royals. Met name Kate Middleton (30) moet het ontgelden.

Morrissey, een zelfverklaard antimonarchist, legt de zere vinger bij de 'arrogante' Britse royals. De 53-jarige Britse zanger is van mening dat de Koninklijke familie te veel druk op de verpleegster heeft uitgeoefend na de misgelopen radiograp van twee Australische radio-dj's, die als 'zondebokken' gebruikt worden.

Op de Nieuw-Zeelandse zender 3 News zegt hij het volgende: ''Kate maalt helemaal niet om de dood van die verpleegster. Daarnaast schaamt ze zich ook totaal niet voor wat er gebeurd is. Ze zegt niks over de zelfmoord van die arme verpleegster.''

Morrissey vraagt zich ook af wat Kate in beginsel in het ziekenhuis deed. ''Volgens mijn inschatting was ze in het ziekenhuis zonder enige reden. Heeft ze een medisch probleem? Ik bedoel maar te zeggen: nu al misselijk? Daar was veel daarover te doen, maar na de dood van die vrouw wandelde ze okselfris het ziekenhuis weer uit. Dat is toch niet meer geloofwaardig!"

Verpleegster Jacintha Saldanha raakte vorige week betrokken bij een grap van de radiozender. Twee dj's deden zich in een telefoongesprek voor als koningin Elizabeth II en kroonprins Charles en probeerden zo de zwangere Kate Middleton aan de lijn te krijgen. Die lag in het ziekenhuis wegens zwangerschapsmisselijkheid. De verpleegster trapte in de grap en verbond de dj's door met de zuster die Kate behandelde. Drie dagen na het telefoontje werd de verpleegkundige dood gevonden in haar woning.

(C) 1996-2012 Telegraaf Media Nederland | Landelijke Media B.V., Amsterdam.Alle rechten voorbehouden.e-mail: redactie-i@telegraaf.nlPrivacy | Cookies | Disclaimer

Nurse who died after royal baby prank call was found hanged

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Source: The Guardian World News

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 11:40

Jacintha Saldanha, who took a hoax call from Australian DJs posing as members of the royal family before she was found dead. Photograph: AP

The nurse found dead after a hoax call to the hospital treating the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was found hanged, the Guardian understands.

Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a mother of two from Bristol, was discovered unconscious at her nurses' flat near the private King Edward VII hospital in central London on Friday morning.

A postmortem has been carried out, with the results expected to be officially announced at the opening of the inquest into her death on Thursday morning at Westminster coroners court.

The Guardian confirmed a report on Sky News that she had been found hanged. Scotland Yard would not comment on the reports.

Saldanha was the nurse who answered a hoax call to the hospital from two Australian radio DJs in the early hours of Tuesday last week, just hours after the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted for acute morning sickness.

The nurse, who had worked at the hospital for more than four years, was discovered at around 9.30am on Friday morning. Reports that she left a suicide note have not been confirmed.

The death is not being treated as suspicious, and the inquest is expected to be opened and adjourned on Thursday as inquiries continue.

The family of the nurse are set to receive more than £350,000 from Southern Cross Austereo, the parent company of the Sydney station 2Day FM, whose presenters rang the hospital inquiring about the duchess's medical condition and posing as the Queen and Prince of Wales.

Saldanha is understood to be the nurse who answered the call, then, believing she was talking to members of the royal family, transferred it to a duty nurse on the duchess's ward.

The DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have spoken of their devastation over the "unforeseen consequences" of the call. Both are off air at the moment. The station has cancelled its Christmas party, and pledged to donate profits from advertising until the end of the year to a fund to help Saldanha's family.

The hospital has set up a memorial fund to help support her husband and two teenage children.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said on Wednesday the postmortem result "would be announced tomorrow at the inquest".

Justin Bieber Targeted In Murder For Hire Plot

FaceBook Inc.

Daily Press Briefing - December 10, 2012

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 05:21

1:13 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Monday, everyone. I am sorry we are so late. We had a lot of issues to wrestle today. First, let me give a shout-out to the State Department interns in the back of the room. Welcome. We are so happy to have you with us. And also just to remind everybody that it is International Human Rights Day. The Secretary has done a statement today, which you'll have. And as you know, she gave a speech on human rights last week in Dublin. Let's go to what's on your minds, after we turn off Arshad's phone there, or whatever the heck that is.

QUESTION: It's my tape recorder, actually.

MS. NULAND: Your tape recorder?

QUESTION: I think it's our Secretary's voice I was listening to there.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Should we all pause and listen to her voice, or shall we --

QUESTION: I'm going to proceed.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: Let's '' I only have one thing and it's very brief. I just want to know if there's anything you can tell us about Bill Burns' '' Deputy Secretary Burns' meeting yesterday and '' was it yesterday or Saturday? Oh, whatever. Over the weekend in Geneva with the Russians on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Let's just go to Syria then. We did put out a few lines on the meeting between UN Special Envoy Brahimi, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov, hereafter known as the ''triple B'' meeting. Just to say that, as the Secretary made clear after her meeting with Mr. Brahimi and Foreign Minister Lavrov last week in Dublin, we are committed to helping Special Envoy Brahimi see what he can do to support and advance a Syrian-led political transition process.

So the two deputies met with Mr. Brahimi yesterday to hear his ideas and to declare our support for the process. I would say that that was a preliminary meeting. We expect there'll be more such meetings as Mr. Brahimi fleshes out his plan. I don't have any particular details to announce at this point, but we expect that he will be making efforts to work towards the kind of transition outlined in Geneva, particularly the democratic principles undergirding it.

QUESTION: Well, was there any kind agreement reached on at least an outline? Or did the B's just bumble?

MS. NULAND: The B's had a chance to hear some preliminary ideas from Mr. Brahimi, but I think we're going to have to keep talking.

QUESTION: But you said, ''More such meetings.'' Did you mean to say more such meetings at that level with the Deputy Secretary?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: And any idea when that might be? I mean, you don't have that much time between now and Marrakesh, and presumably you're trying to get something done between now and then, n'est-ce pas?

MS. NULAND: I think you should look at this process of Mr. Brahimi trying to work on implementing a transition as something that is running in parallel with the Marrakesh process, which, as you know, is where we'll have a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People, and we'll have a chance to see the Syrian Opposition Council members. So the Marrakesh meeting is very much about the international community supporting the Syrian Opposition Council, hearing their views, moving forward, and talking to them about how they see the transition moving forward, even as Special Envoy Brahimi works with them and works with other stakeholders in Syria to see if he can get a transition going. So the two things are two pieces of a multifaceted approach, but it's not a matter of having something to deliver to Marrakesh.

QUESTION: The Russians aren't even coming to Marrakesh, correct?

MS. NULAND: The Russians do not participate in the Friends of the Syrian people. They have been invited; they have chosen not to participate.

Jill.

QUESTION: Speaking of the Russians, Mr. '' Minister Lavrov sounds furious. He is saying that, essentially, a certain country '' probably the United States, I would think '' is trying to lead this down the road of Libya, and any type of statement about Assad leaving will not happen. Now this would appear to be a non-starter. If he is saying nothing about any type of demand that Assad leave, and the United States has said that they '' that it totally believes that he has to leave, doesn't that mean that this is doomed?

MS. NULAND: I haven't seen what Foreign Minister Lavrov has said that you are reporting here, Jill. I don't know if he spoke again today. Secretary was very clear again when we were in Belfast on Friday that we don't see any transition process that includes Assad. This is not a new position for us. The President has said that he needs to go for a year. Frankly, we don't see the Syrian opposition making common cause with a guy who's responsible for the kind of bloodshed that he's responsible for.

So the question with regard to the Brahimi process is whether, in the context of the outline that the entire P5, including the Russians, agreed to back in June in Geneva, there are players who could come together from the opposition. Perhaps there are folks who are currently in the government without blood on their hands who could support those kinds of democratic principles and form the basis of a transitional structure going forward. Mr. Brahimi thinks it is worth a try. We want to support his efforts, and we'll have to see where that goes.

QUESTION: Victoria, but you talk about the Brahimi process. Mr. Brahimi has been on the job for four or five months now. How much progress has he made? Where are we now from where he began?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, he's done a number of trips to the region. He's taken soundings with various stakeholders. He came to Secretary Clinton; he went to Foreign Minister Lavrov, said I want to make another push to see whether Geneva is implementable, and I need your support. And it's on that basis that, obviously, the Secretary agreed to try to help if we can. So we'll see what this push brings.

But it doesn't replace all of the other things that we are doing, which you will see in Marrakesh, including, notably, trying to strengthen the opposition in coming up with its own plan, in working on its own connectivity between external opposition, internal opposition, effectiveness of their political operation, even as more areas are liberated from the regime, et cetera. So they will have their own plan, and we will be encouraging them in that regard as well.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. A couple weeks ago he came out of the UN, after the closed session with the Security Council, and basically said that he doesn't even have a plan, he wouldn't call that he has a plan. So how far along has he '' what kind of progress has he made towards suggesting a plan?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we took it when the Secretary saw him in Dublin, he sees a lot of merit in the democratic framework for a transition that the Security Council members and other neighbors of Syria came up with in Geneva back in June. The question is whether he can get Syrians to rally around it. We obviously support efforts that he's making to try. We'll have to see where it goes. But as the Secretary said in Belfast, this is a renewed push, but we don't have anything yet and nobody should be sanguine about whether this is going to be easy or whether this is going to be quick.

Jill.

QUESTION: So where do we stand now on the opposition, recognizing the opposition?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we have, as the Secretary said, been looking at ways that we can deepen and broaden our support. We will be in Marrakesh on Wednesday '' the Secretary will be '' for the Friends of the Syrian People. I think we want to talk there about more support that we can give them along the lines of what she foreshadowed last week, but I don't want to get ahead of announcements that we might make.

I think, among other things, she'll want to meet with them, she'll want to hear from them both in her own meeting and in the broader meeting about how they see things going forward, both in terms of their own internal organization, about their connectivity with Syrians inside Syria, about their transitional planning, about the needs that they see for external support, how they would have us best direct the nonlethal support and humanitarian support that we are providing. So she'll want to hear about all of those things. But she's been clear that we'd like to offer them more support, and I think you'll see some of that at Marrakesh on Wednesday.

QUESTION: Do you have that worked out who '' with whom she would meet?

MS. NULAND: We're working on an appropriate list of leaders from the SOC, but I don't have anything to announce today, Jill.

QUESTION: And just one other question. I'm interested in recognition and what it means legally, if the United States were to. I'm not saying you '' I know you hate hypotheticals, but there must be legal ramifications to this. If you say that you're recognizing them as representatives of the Syrian people, what does that mean legally? Do you still talk with the existing government of Assad?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you're getting me ahead of where we are, Jill. If we make an advance in the next coming days or so, we'll be prepared to explain any implications of that. What I would do is remind you of how this went in the Libyan context where we were able to take progressive steps, as the Libyan opposition themselves took steps, to work with them and to advance the way we dealt with them politically.

QUESTION: So that, I mean, it would work with diplomatic mission? For instance, you would take the embassy, the Syrian Embassy, and say now, at this point, the opposition, they can go and occupy it?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to foreshadow decisions that we haven't made yet and haven't announced yet, but just to remind you that in the Libyan case, both with regard to how we dealt with the leadership of the opposition and also with regard to the physical status in Washington and beyond, it was an iterative process; there were a number of steps along the road.

QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: Was there any '' in the Libyan example though, was there anything that happened immediately after that meeting in Istanbul? Wasn't that the key that unlocked the process for the '' for them to get some of the assets that had been frozen?

MS. NULAND: I can't recall exactly what happened when on Libya. We can go back and look at all of those things. There were different steps that needed to be taken in order to unlock the assets. In the Syrian case, obviously we're not holding regime assets here, so that is not '' doesn't pertain, so --

QUESTION: Well '' no, I know. That's why I'm asking about Libya, not about Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: But I mean, didn't you have to recognize them first before that process before the assets --

MS. NULAND: There were steps that had to be taken. I can't remember at what stage in the process, as compared to where we are now in Syria, where that unlocked. We can go back and look at that, Matt.

QUESTION: Are we getting closer with the Russia regarding the implementation of Geneva statement?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think the question here is whether, having agreed on the democratic principles that have to undergird any kind of a transition, having agreed on what we want a future Syria to look like in the Geneva statement, namely that it has to unified, it has to be pluralistic, it has to be democratic, it has to protect the rights of all Syrians no matter where they come from, can we now get a process going to move past the back-and-forth that we had in June and encourage Syrians of all stripes to rally around the idea of forming a transitional structure? And that's something that UN Special Envoy Brahimi wants to try, and we'll see how he does.

Please. Can you tell me who you are? Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Just '' yes.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News. Has the U.S. in any way facilitated the movement of weapons out of Libya to arm Syrian rebels?

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: Okay --

QUESTION: There was a report yesterday in the Sunday Times --

MS. NULAND: It was a false report.

QUESTION: It's a false report. Okay.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. given tacit approval for the Qataris and Saudis to arm the rebels?

MS. NULAND: We've talked about this before. You know where we are in U.S. policy, that we are providing nonlethal assistance. Other countries are making other choices. We are doing our best, both in the Friends of the Syrian People and in other formats, to try to stay well coordinated in terms of understanding who we are supporting so that we're supporting opposition forces that favor a democratic, unitary, pluralistic Syria and not having any of our support fall into the hands of extremists. So we're obviously trying to be coordinated. That would be what I would have to say on that subject.

QUESTION: Just to put '' draw a fine point on this story that appeared yesterday in the Sunday Times, has the Administration made a decision to change its policy and to begin to arm the Syrian rebels?

MS. NULAND: We have not changed our policy.

QUESTION: The fact that a new military command has been formed and so on does not persuade you to go ahead and arm the opposition that now it has become solid and respectable and in command of what it does?

MS. NULAND: We are maintaining our current posture of providing nonlethal support and not going beyond that.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to label the Al-Nusra Front a terrorist organization in Syria because of its ties to al-Qaida in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Well, you've probably seen a pre-notification in the Federal Register. We will have more to say about this tomorrow in the coming days. What I would say is that I think you know that we've had concerns that Al-Nusra is little more than a front for al-Qaida in Iraq, who has moved some of its operations into Syria. This, again, goes to the environment that Assad and his regime have created with their violence, that they have, as we've been concerned about for many months, created an environment with this violence that extremists can now try to exploit. So that we do see al-Qaida in Iraq trying to make these inroads, but I don't have anything to announce with regard to legal steps of ours today.

QUESTION: And finally, is there any truth to some reports of chemical weapons being used inside Syria? There's some video footage this weekend on Al Arabiya.

MS. NULAND: That something has actually been used?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to confirm that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Still on Syria? Are we finished with Syria? Okay, moving there. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions on Venezuela and Colombia. The first one: Do you have any reactions on Chavez's travel to Cuba? And the second one is: Colombian magazine report that one of the people who led to the capture of Mono Jojoy, one of the guerilla leaders, claimed that the U.S. didn't pay the reward of $5,000 '' or $5 million, sorry. If you have any question '' any comments on that, too?

MS. NULAND: On the '' this was a Rewards for Justice program in Colombia which --

QUESTION: No. It is one person who lead to the capture and, after, killing of Mono Jojoy, one of the guerilla leaders. He claimed that the U.S. hasn't paid him the $5 million reward.

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything on that. We will check into that, and if I have anything we'll get back to you.

Going back to the Venezuela question, can you --

QUESTION: It is regarding President Chavez's travel to Cuba. You know, he's very ill. He's going to be operated or so. So I was wondering if you have any comments on the current political situation in Venezuela or on Chavez's health.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, with regard to his health we would refer you to the Venezuelan authorities. I think they've spoken about this pretty extensively.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian issue?

QUESTION: Can I just have a quick follow-up on that?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: While considering that this is his fourth surgery coming up and the fact that he has now named someone to act in his stead should he not be able to continue his duties, is that not a matter of interest for the U.S. Government?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we would want to see any succession follow the terms of the Venezuelan constitution. We're obviously watching events there carefully.

QUESTION: Do you wish him a speedy recovery?

MS. NULAND: As with anybody who is suffering what he is suffering, we do.

QUESTION: As always, always the case.

MS. NULAND: Anything else on this? No? Please. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Follow-up on '' I'm David Ivanovich with Argus Media. May I follow up on the Venezuelan question? There seems to be some concerns about the successor that Mr. Chavez is saying should be named if he were to die. Do you have any concerns about who he is naming as whether that really would be following the Venezuelan constitution or not?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say it again. Should the president become permanently unavailable to serve, the Venezuelan constitution itself defines a succession policy. Should an election become constitutionally necessary, the expectation in the hemisphere, including our expectation and we assume the expectation of the Venezuelan people, would be that it be peaceful, that it be inclusive, that it be free and conducted on a level playing field, providing an opportunity for Venezuela to demonstrate its commitment to representative democracy.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you --

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

QUESTION: -- what is ''permanently unable to serve''? What does that mean? Does that mean dead?

MS. NULAND: If he --

QUESTION: What does that mean? A stroke or incapacitated or --

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that --

QUESTION: Is Fidel Castro permanently unable to serve?

MS. NULAND: -- under all constitutions, heads of state who conclude that they should no longer serve for whatever reason can take themselves out of the '' can resign, can retire, whatever they want to do. I'm not going to speculate, but --

QUESTION: But permanently unable '' that sounds like some kind of a Pentagon line, like terminate with extreme prejudice or something.

MS. NULAND: Well, as compared to what's been happening over this period, where he's been naming temporary implementers of his powers, as you know.

QUESTION: Gotcha. Okay.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because Mr. Hammer said last week that the U.S. is willing to, more than ready to, to exchange ambassadors with Venezuela, and he would like to reassume the dialogue. So in the frame of all the situation with President Chavez, do you see any chance or this is going to have any impact on U.S. willingness to continue to foster dialogue with Venezuela?

MS. NULAND: Well, I'm not going to speculate on hypothetical situations, as we try hard here not to do. We obviously want the best possible communications between our government and the Venezuelan Government on all issues of mutual interest, including but not limited to counternarcotics, counterterrorism, rule of law, commerce, et cetera. But we don't currently have any plans to reestablish relations at the ambassadorial level with Caracas.

Please.

QUESTION: While we're on Venezuela, please?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You talked about '' in a comment on a hypothetical situation, should it be necessary to have an election, you talked about the importance of it being conducted on a level playing field. Can you be a little more specific on whether you particularly '' by that you specifically mean media access for all candidates to major media, which I think has been one of the big issues in Venezuela in terms of whether people actually have access to coverage by major media?

MS. NULAND: Well, that would certainly be one litmus test of level playing field, as it is around the world. Yeah.

Okay. Said.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated today that he, in fact, called for the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel from the point where they were last and during the last negotiation session, and '' provided that all settlement activity be frozen for the time being. Do you support such a call, or is that '' you consider that to be conditional?

MS. NULAND: As the President has said all the way along, as the Secretary has said, we are prepared to be full partners in supporting negotiations if and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations. So it always takes two to tango, as we say. So '' and we've also called for both sides to come to the table without preconditions.

QUESTION: Do you consider it reasonable to call for resumption of negotiations from the point where they ended?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support any scenario in which the parties can get back to direct talks, because it's going to be the only way to settle all of the longstanding issues between them. It's the only way to get to the two states living next to each other in peace that we all seek.

QUESTION: Is a construction moratorium a good way to get them back to the table?

MS. NULAND: Again, you know where we are on settlements, where we are on construction in Jerusalem. That hasn't changed. Mark spoke to this extensively last week. We want to avoid provocation by any side and get back to conditions for direct talks.

QUESTION: And have you taken any measures since last week, or have you taken any steps, to dissuade the Israelis from construction in the E1 area?

MS. NULAND: We've been very clear in public and in private about how we feel about E1. Mark spoke to it last week.

QUESTION: What about the tax transfer holdup? Has the U.S. done anything to try to help mediate that fallout from the UNGA vote?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we said at the time of the UNGA vote, we were concerned that this would have consequences, would imperil the relationship between them. That said, we favor support for the Palestinian Authority, support from all quarters, because this goes directly to the issue of maintaining quality of life for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Victoria, one last thing on the money that is being held up. Have you done anything to make sure that it is released and properly delivered to the Palestinians?

MS. NULAND: You're talking about on the U.S. side?

QUESTION: Right, yes, U.S. The U.S. money and --

MS. NULAND: We continue to work with Congress to make the case that continued U.S. support for the Palestinian people is in our national interest, is in the interest of the peace process. But again, there are a lot of views in the Congress, particularly in light of the move at the UN.

QUESTION: Just on this, there's a Quartet meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, envoy level. Do you expect anything substantial or significant to come out of this, or is this just kind of a stock-taking exercise in looking at how dismal the chances are to get the peace process started again?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it's been a while since David Hale has met with his Quartet counterparts, so I think it's an opportunity to look at where we are and if and when we might be able to be in a position to get these parties back to the table, obviously, in light of all of the factors. So it's '' let's say that at this stage, it is gardening, but it is important gardening.

QUESTION: Gardening. You mean like weeding?

MS. NULAND: No, it's nurturing of the soil. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are they actually planting? Are they --

MS. NULAND: Nurturing of the soil.

QUESTION: Are they planting any seeds? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: They're always trying to plant seeds, as you know.

QUESTION: There's more gardening? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Egypt, after the latest developments there, do you have any recommendations to President Morsi and the Egyptian people?

MS. NULAND: Well, Michel, I think you know that we have said all the way through here that we are deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in Egypt, that we are obviously seeing what you are seeing, that there are very strong opinions in Egypt about both the substance of the constitution and the process to get there. So '' but this is '' these are Egyptian decisions to make, how to move forward. What we want to see is a process that can garner the respect and the support of the broadest number of Egyptians. We want to see a constitution that, when it is adopted, respects and protects the rights of all Egyptians and the democratic trajectory of the country, but Egyptians are going to have to work through how they get from here to there.

QUESTION: A number of those in the opposition say that because of the way the constitution was drafted that it was dominated by Islamists, that it is inherently an unsound document, and thus, having the referendum on Saturday should not happen. What has the U.S. said to the Morsi government about the wisdom of proceeding on Saturday?

MS. NULAND: What we are saying is the same thing we've been saying all the way through, that these decisions have to be made by Egyptians, but they have to be made in a manner that can garner the broadest possible support. So we are not in the business of dictating this constitution on this date in this way. These decisions have to be made by dialogue. But clearly, we have still a lot of churn and a lot of ferment about both the process and the substance, and this needs to be worked through.

QUESTION: Does it help that there were concrete barriers erected around the presidential palace and that '' perhaps more significant '' that Morsi has given the army the order to arrest people who disturb the process of voting on Saturday? Does that not raise alarms in this building?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the question of stability and public order, our message here has also been consistent. We want to see those exercising their right of freedom of expression to do so peacefully, but we also want to see the Egyptian Government and security forces respecting that freedom of peaceful expression and assembly and to exercise restraint. So those are the '' that's sort of the frame in which we're watching how things go forward.

QUESTION: Is there any confidence that the Egyptian military will repeat its behavior of 18, 20 months ago when it refused to fire on protestors? Basically, they didn't want to take sides between Mubarak and the protestors.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we want to see those protesting do so peacefully, and we want to see those who are charged with maintaining security do so in a manner that respects the human rights and respects freedom of expression, and to do so with restraint. So those are the messages that we're giving.

QUESTION: The flip side of Roz's question '' the flip side is that the military said that they will ensure that the referendum goes on smoothly. Are you concerned that they might actually impose something akin to martial law?

MS. NULAND: Again, the way this goes forward has to be worked out among Egyptians. But again, we want to see security forces respect the right of peaceful protest, exercise restraint, and of course, we don't want to see mistakes of the Mubarak era repeated.

QUESTION: Can I just make '' when you say peaceful protests, presumably you don't want to see people disrupting the polls, correct?

MS. NULAND: We want to see --

QUESTION: You don't want to see people interfering in the polls.

MS. NULAND: We are obviously not calling for that. We're calling for peaceful expression of views.

QUESTION: No, no, I '' right, right, but I think the question was '' the original question was that Morsi says that he's given the military orders to arrest people who disrupt the polls. Are you concerned about that? And my question is: Are you concerned about people disrupting the polls? And if they do disrupt the polls, shouldn't they be arrested?

MS. NULAND: Again, this whole situation in Egypt is very much evolving, changing on a daily basis. Our concern is that Egyptians make the decisions going forward and that the decisions be consensual, they be rooted in dialogue, and that they be peaceful on all sides, both on the side of those who are dissatisfied with the process and on the side of those charged with public security. So we all know what that looks like. It means exercising restraint on the government's side and it means exercising good judgment and nonviolence on the opposition side.

QUESTION: Right, but I guess the question is --

MS. NULAND: We're not going to get into the business of commenting on every back-and-forth here as they work through how they're going to get to this constitution. We want to see it managed in a way that the end product is a constitution that protects democracy, protects stability, and enforces and brings about a national consensus.

QUESTION: But you would not say that peaceful protest includes disrupting voting?

MS. NULAND: We would not.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Victoria, could you tell us if anyone from this building met with Essam el-Erian, the Deputy President of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is in town?

MS. NULAND: Apparently, he did not have any meetings here in the State Department.

QUESTION: So are you '' what is he doing in town? You're not aware of what he's doing or --

MS. NULAND: I think he was here to attend a conference, but ask him, Said. Frankly, I don't know.

QUESTION: Just to be clear about that, his question was whether anyone from this building met with him, not that '' whether he had meetings inside the building. So nobody from the building met with him, even if it was outside the building? They didn't go to the conference and chat with him there?

MS. NULAND: What I have is that we didn't see him.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else on this?

QUESTION: On Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Posner is in Bahrain, and the Bahraini Crown Prince has called for a new dialogue with the opposition. And he's thanked several states that helped Bahrain, but he didn't mention the United States. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me first confirm what you had, Michel, that Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor Mike Posner has just completed a trip to Bahrain. He issued a long statement, which is on the Embassy's website if you want to see it. But to summarize, the United States welcomes the calls by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain for dialogue. And we also acknowledge that Al Wefaq has given a constructive response to that, as have other opposition groups, and have made clear their readiness to engage.

As you know, we have been calling for some time for the re-launch of real dialogue among the stakeholders. And we urge all sides to take this opening now and use it, and we want to see some concrete steps towards building confidence among the groups on real reform going forward.

QUESTION: Did you discuss '' when he thanked '' when the Crown Prince thanked several states that helped Bahrain during its crisis, he didn't mention the U.S. Do you have anything on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, we know the role that we have played with all stakeholders, trying to urge dialogue, trying to urge progress, so I don't think that that should be in any doubt one way or the other.

QUESTION: Did you feel snubbed? And that's the way it was reported over the weekend, that this was a deliberate, calculated snub to the United States. Do you regard it as such?

MS. NULAND: I think we '' obviously, as evidenced by the good visit that Mike Posner had and where we are now, that our relationship and our ability to work well with Bahrainis of all kinds shouldn't be in question.

QUESTION: Wait, wait a minute. Was his visit good? I mean, he is publicly quoted as saying that the Bahrainis should prosecute people who are behind violence. And it's '' I mean, he's been quite critical.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, because this is part of what was in the BICI's set of recommendations that hasn't been implemented. I mean, among the roles that he has played in his regular trips to Bahrain is to call it like we see it in terms of where they have done well in implementing BICI recommendations and where work still needs to be done, and this is a place that we obviously need to see work. But one of the biggest obstacles to moving forward on any of it had been that the groups weren't talking to each other. So to have this renewed call for dialogue, which is welcomed on all sides, is a good step, and we hope it can open the way for more and complete, ultimately, implementation of the BICI recommendations.

QUESTION: But why was it a good visit? I mean, did he have anything to do with the Crown Prince expressing a willingness to re-launch dialogue and to Al Wefaq's apparently positive signals toward that? Because I read his visit as very critical. Maybe I've misunderstood it, but I don't see how it's easy to characterize it as good when you guys, if I'm not mistaken, take the view that they haven't properly implemented the BICI recommendations, for the most part, that many of the underlying issues between the Shia community and the authorities remain totally unresolved. And so I just don't understand why it's a good visit.

MS. NULAND: Again, from the perspective of all of this having to start with real dialogue about the reform that's needed among the groups, and having had many months where there was no dialogue at all, this having been the major subject of conversation when the Crown Prince was last here, et cetera, to see the Crown Prince now call for it, to see Wefaq and other groups say yes, we're ready, our hope is that everybody will take advantage of this now, they'll be able to really talk to each other, including about how to implement this unfinished business from the BICI, including prosecutions.

So the role that Assistant Secretary Posner has played in terms of the human rights dialogue that he's been having with Bahrain over the last two-plus years was key to the working through of the BICI recommendations in the first place, but also keeping a process going whereby we could get back to a real dialogue here today. So obviously, the proof will be in what that dialogue produces, but to have this kind of movement is better than where we were a week ago.

Said.

QUESTION: Victoria, this being Human Rights Day, do you think you have been treating the Bahraini Government with kid gloves, in fact, all your allies, as far '' when it comes to human rights abuses in the area, like Saudi Arabia, like Qatar and the other countries --

MS. NULAND: I think if you --

QUESTION: -- giving them, perhaps, a pass?

MS. NULAND: If you're concerned about that, read the statement that Assistant Secretary Posner released. As Arshad makes clear, there's '' there are no kid gloves involved in that statement.

Please.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: North Korea announced they postponed their launching missile yesterday, and then '' but they are still trying to launch missile within this year. What are you going to do to stop North Korea? And also, did you have any direct dialogue with North Korea in several days?

MS. NULAND: Well, we remain concerned that this is just a delay and that the DPRK still plans to launch a missile or a satellite or something that would be in violation of its international obligations, that fundamentally their plans are unchanged. As we've said before, any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology would be in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. We again call on North Korea to refrain from a launch and to comply with its obligations.

We '' you'll remember that we have the UN Security Council presidential statement which was adopted in April of this year which strongly condemned their last launch and made clear that the Council was determined to take action if there is a further launch, and we stand by that.

With regard to direct contact, I think you know that we have channels to do that as necessary and we use them as necessary.

QUESTION: And also we got a statement '' press release last week about the dialogue with Chinese minister of the international issues, Wang Jiarui. He will be here until 12th and then '' did you have already that meeting with him?

MS. NULAND: You're talking about Wang Jiarui, the Minister of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's International Department.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: And this comes up because of his frequent contacts with the North Koreans. Is that why it comes up now? Yeah. Our understanding is that he's going to '' he's visiting '' he's in the United States now. He's going to meet with Deputy Secretary Burns tomorrow, and we obviously look forward to hearing what he has to say. I would say in this connection that Secretary Clinton has been in direct touch with Foreign Minister Yang about exchanging views and concerns about the DPRK's launch, planned launch, as she has with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia.

Please.

QUESTION: Why do you think North Korea is still planning to launch a missile? Do you have any reason to believe they haven't canceled it?

MS. NULAND: As far as we can tell, this is simply a delay and that their plans are unchanged.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Clinton have a direct dialogue with Minister Yang?

MS. NULAND: Yes. On Friday while we were on our way home.

QUESTION: By phone?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: When did it happen?

MS. NULAND: Friday.

QUESTION: What did he '' did she talk about?

MS. NULAND: They talked about the DPRK and our concern about the launch.

QUESTION: Yeah, of course, but I'm sure she asked China to stop the North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Well, you know how closely we work with China on these issues. So they compared notes about what we're seeing and the question was what influence China could bring to bear on the DPRK to see reason and focus on the development of their country and the feeding of their people rather than on ballistic missile launches that are in violation of their international obligations.

QUESTION: Did she talk about the additional sanction in the Security Council in UN?

MS. NULAND: Well, she obviously talked about the need to implement the commitment that we had made to take action, as I said.

Lalit.

QUESTION: India. India's main opposition party, BJP, is today alleging that Wal-Mart lobbied here in the U.S. Congress for opening of India's multi-retail sector, and also paid money to Indian officials in this regard. Do you know about these allegations, and what's sort of facts about --

MS. NULAND: Well, we've seen these press reports. Wal-Mart itself has spoken to this directly. With regard to lobbying in the United States, I think you know that the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 require lobbyists for any companies or other organizations to disclose their activities in a periodic report to the Congress. So the report that some of these allegations cite was a regularly required report for the U.S. Government as part of our open government transparency in governance requirements.

QUESTION: With allegations of Wal-Mart paying officials in India for the opening of the multi-brand --

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak for Wal-Mart, but just to tell you that they issued a press release and addressed these directly.

QUESTION: But that's enough for you? There's not any '' you're not aware of any investigation into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or anything like that?

MS. NULAND: On the U.S. --

QUESTION: I mean, this is potentially criminal activity. I don't know what the details are, but --

MS. NULAND: On the U.S. side, I don't have any reason to believe that we have a violation of U.S. law here. With regard to the Indian side, I'll refer you to them.

Okay?

QUESTION: There's one --

MS. NULAND: Oh, I thought I was getting away here. Still Lalit in the back. Sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan and Pakistan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, there was sharp exchange of words between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the last week's suicide bomb attack against Afghanistan's spy chief. Afghanistan is now saying that ISI was behind this attack. Pakistan is saying it's not. Are you aware about the '' have Afghanistan and Pakistan approached you on this issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know the Turks are sponsoring a meeting in '' I don't know if it's today or in the next couple of days '' which will provide an opportunity for direct dialogue between President Karzai and Zardari. This, we think, is a good opportunity for them to talk directly about issues of concern rather than sort of doing it by public statement. Because as you know, we have long supported better dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in support of Afghan-led reconciliation. So we hope that both sides avail themselves of this meeting that the Turks are offering to work through the issues.

QUESTION: Do you have any reasons to believe the Afghanistan's statement that ISI was behind this suicide attack?

MS. NULAND: We're not going to get into the middle of this one. We want them to talk it out directly.

Please.

QUESTION: Last Friday, the Secretary announced some exceptions to the Iran sanctions that are embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act. The '' Turkey has been involved in natural gas trades with Iran that have resulted in billions of dollars in gold making its way to Tehran. China has been '' it was '' in October it was importing more than half a million barrels a day of Iranian oil. Can you help us understand why they merited exceptions to the sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you go back and read the statement that the Secretary released, it is very clear about the basis for these exceptions. And I just remind that what we are seeking here is a process of reducing dependence on Iranian oil. We obviously want to see as many countries as possible do what the European Union has done and get to zero, but we judge them on how they are reducing over time.

QUESTION: Wait one second, though. I mean, the law doesn't say a process of reducing dependence; it says significant reductions. And convoluted though it is, it also says significant reductions over the prior 180-day period. And I haven't seen the numbers, but I've seen reports about the numbers that suggest that Chinese imports actually may have gone up during some of the months, and therefore I wonder why it is a significant reduction if it's gone up to some degree.

MS. NULAND: Again, we look at the aggregate for the period, we look at the trend line. There are '' obviously the way these things go, sometimes it spikes, but it evaluates the entire period.

Lalit.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question from a question taken on Friday. When a terrorist organization or any organization is designated as a foreign terrorist outfit or an individual is designated as a foreign terrorist, can he or she or that particular organization can open a account with Facebook or Google because they are U.S. companies, and in the FTO they are '' any U.S. organization and citizens applying for having any interaction with them?

MS. NULAND: Well, when activity is sanctioned, it does give the U.S. Government broad latitude to talk to our companies about the way these sanctions are to be implemented. So each case is different and we evaluate each case individually. There are, as you can imagine, circumstances where it might be advantageous for accounts to stay open. I'm not going to go any further than that.

QUESTION: For instance, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan last week opened an account on Facebook and is seeking applications from journalists as writers, videographers. Is that any violation of FTO? Is it okay with this?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm going to send you to the Department of Justice on that particular one, okay?

QUESTION: Actually, it raises an interesting point, because when you do open an account on one of these things, you actually have to enter into a contractual agreement with the company by clicking on the box after not reading the long disclaimer that they offer you. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I take it you didn't read it when you opened your account?

QUESTION: No. Does anybody? (Laughter.) Unless they're '' and I don't know, maybe al-Qaida is reading it, but it raises an interesting question, I think. Can those '' maybe L can answer this. I mean, can those contracts '' because it says you can't '' when you're either an FTO or a specially designated global terrorist, you're not allowed to do business with '' or Americans are barred '' presumably that includes American companies '' are barred from doing business with these people, and having an account is doing business with them even if no money is changing hands. So can we find out if that is a potentially sanctionable activity?

MS. NULAND: I'm going to take it in the form that you've just given me, so it may take a little bit.

QUESTION: Okay. I've got just two very brief ones. There's a lot of chatter on the Hill that the ARB report is imminent. Do you have any update on when that might happen? Is it going to '' do you expect them to meet their statutory deadline? Or if there is '' there is some leeway there. If they need more time, they can have it. Do you expect them to meet the deadline or do you think they'll ask and get a little bit more time?

MS. NULAND: Well, just to recall that there's no '' in statute, there's no deadline for when they have to complete their report. In this case, when the Secretary formed them, she asked them to try to meet a 60-65 day timeline. And they pledged to try to do that, which would take you into the middle of December. I don't have any reason to think that we are off base there, but obviously, we want them to do it, do it right. And we'll have '' we'll let you know when there's something to announce.

QUESTION: Can you rule out this week?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to '' I don't have anything to announce one way or the other. I think we'll know when we know.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one is '' this came up with Mark last week and he actually did have an answer, but I was looking for a little bit more specific answer. And that's about this thing in this '' the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi that the Secretary's going to attend. We've gone back and forth about this before, I think, but he said that you guys had managed to get placed on the agenda an item about how to cooperate with non-member states.

This, as you'll recall, is a question that relates to Israel. And he was able to answer that question, but I'm just wondering, is that agenda item specifically designed for Israel? And whether it is or not, does it envision them becoming a member, a fully fledged member of this group, or does it envisage just them continuing to not be a member and just working with them outside the formal mechanism?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just remind that the intent of the Global Counterterrorism Forum was that it would be open and that it would grow over time and more states would be able to participate. So just to follow up on what Mark said last week, we do want to talk at this coming-up meeting in Abu Dhabi about how we do that not only with regard to Israel but with regard to a number of other states that want to participate.

So let me simply say that precisely what's going to be reviewed on '' I guess, is it next '' is it Thursday or Friday? I can't remember what day we're in the UAE this week. We'll have more precise information about as we get closer to it. But the goal is to ensure that those states that have something to offer, whether it's in working groups or whether it's as formal members, over time have an opportunity to participate in the status that they're interested in.

QUESTION: Do you know or could you find out if it '' if the agenda item foresees Israel or any other country becoming a member, a new member, or if it just looks at how countries that aren't members can fit in on the sidelines?

MS. NULAND: Let me say that we will '' in the context of preparing you to cover the trip, as I know you are, we will have more to say on that. Okay?

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: One last one here and then we'll go. Yeah.

QUESTION: One more on chemical weapons. Although you cannot confirm their use over the weekend, does the U.S. remain concerned that President Assad is in a position to use them?

MS. NULAND: Our position on this has not changed. The President spoke to it, Secretary spoke to it, Panetta spoke to it. You know our concerns.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 209

Facebook helps FBI take down $850M botnet crime ring | Security & Privacy - CNET News

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:46

FBI credits the social-networking giant with helping take down the suspects behind one of the largest cybercrime hauls in history.

Facebook helped the FBI take down an international crime ring that used a botnet to infect 11 million computers and steal more than $850 million, one of the largest cybercrime hauls in history.

The FBI announced today that with the social-networking giant's assistance, it had arrested 10 people from countries around the world it said used the Yahos malware and Butterfly botnet to steal victims' credit card, bank account, and personal information.

"Facebook's security team provided assistance to law enforcement throughout the investigation by helping to identify the root cause, the perpetrators, and those affected by the malware," the FBI said in a statement. "Yahos targeted Facebook users from 2010 to October 2012, and security systems were able to detect affected accounts and provide tools to remove these threats."

The FBI said the arrests occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, New Zealand, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

CNET has contacted Facebook for more information about the role it played in the investigation and will update this report when we learn more. While it was unclear how or where Facebook identified the suspects and victims, the social-networking giant is no stranger to malware. A worm wiggling around the social network last year reportedly made off with the usernames and passwords of more than 45,000 users.

The FBI did not elaborate on how it arrived at its $850 million theft figure, but that haul easily dwarfs the Eurograbber, which was revealed last week to have stolen about $47 million from European banking customers in the past year. The Yahos' spoils also surpass the take by the Zeus botnet crime ring, which infected an estimated 13 million computers with malware to steal more than $100 million.

Gitmo Nation

US Senate blocks Pentagon plan to launch new CIA-style agency intelNews.org

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:38

December 12, 2012by Joseph Fitsanakis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |Last week the United States Department of Defense flooded media outlets with press releases announcing the planned establishment of a new military intelligence organization that would rival the Central Intelligence Agency in both size and scope. Not so fast. The US Senate has just blocked the plan citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon's existing intelligence operations. The proposed Defense Clandestine Service centers on plans to build an extensive overseas intelligence network, run by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency and based on the CIA model of stations located in large metropolitan centers. The DoD said that the new intelligence organization will help the US armed forces broaden their intelligence collection from the current concentration in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the Senate, which was asked to review and approve the plan's financial requirements, submitted under the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, has refused to do so. Moreover, it issued a written rationale, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which it explicitly forbids the Pentagon using US taxpayers' money to expand its overseas intelligence operations. According to The Washington Post, the reason for the plan's rejection is two-fold. First, the Senate appears unhappy with the financial management of the DoD's existing intelligence collection efforts. The Senate report cites serious concerns about the excessive financial cost and management failures associated with the Pentagon's ongoing intelligence operations. It specifically mentions ''poor or non-existent career management'' for DoD intelligence operatives who are often transferred back to regular military units after undertaking ''unproductive'' assignments overseas, despite extensive intelligence training. The Senate Armed Services Committee's report stipulates that, before it asks for more money to build the proposed new agency, the Pentagon must ''demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion''. Second, Senators demand that DoD officials provide more details on the precise cost of the new program and on how exactly they intend to use the extra intelligence operatives. The report asks for ''an independent estimate of the costs'' associated with the proposed Defense Clandestine Service, as well as a classified explanation of the administrative and operational structure of the agency. Furthermore, the Senate has asked the DoD to provide information on any institutional agreements between it and other US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency, relating to the proposed new agency. The Post's Greg Miller, argues that the Senate's move to block the Pentagon's proposal signals ''deep skepticism'' in Washington that the DoD can bring this ambitions proposal to life. The DoD has long been the US federal government's most wasteful and mismanaged department, so it is little wonder its reputation appears to have finally caught up with it.

Pentagon to Greatly Expand Defense Intelligence Agency's Network of Spies - World - The Boston Globe

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:38

WASHINGTON '-- The Pentagon will send hundreds of –additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, US –officials said.

The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency, dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.

The Defense Intelligence Agency is expected to have as many as 1,600 ''collectors'' around the world, an unprecedented total for an agency whose presence abroad numbered in the triple digits in recent years.

The total includes military attach(C)s and others who do not work undercover. But US officials said the growth will be driven over a five-year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives. They will be trained by the CIA and often work with the Joint Special Operations Command, but they will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.

Among the Pentagon's top intelligence priorities, officials said, are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China.

''This is not a marginal adjustment'' for the Defense Intelligence Agency, its director, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, said at a recent conference. He outlined the changes but did not describe them in detail. ''This is a major adjustment for national security.''

The sharp increase in undercover operatives is part of a far-reaching trend: a convergence of the military and intelligence agencies that has blurred their once-distinct missions, capabilities, and leadership ranks.

Through its drone program, the CIA now accounts for a majority of lethal US operations outside the Afghan war zone. At the same time, the Pentagon's plan to create what it calls the Defense Clandestine Service reflects the military's latest and largest foray into secret intelligence work.

The Defense Intelligence Agency overhaul '-- combined with growth of the CIA since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks '-- will create a spy network of unprecedented size. The plan reflects the Obama administration's affinity for espionage and covert action over conventional force. It also fits in with the administration's efforts to codify its counterterrorism policies for a sustained conflict and assemble the pieces abroad necessary to carry it out.

Unlike the CIA, the Pentagon's spy agency is not authorized to conduct covert operations that go beyond intelligence gathering, such as drone strikes, political sabotage, or arming militants.

But the Defense Intelligence Agency has played a major role in assessing and identifying targets for US forces, which in recent years have assembled a constellation of drone bases from Afghanistan to East Africa.

The expansion of the agency's clandestine role is likely to heighten concern that it will be accompanied by an escalation in lethal strikes and other operations outside public view. The military is not subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA.

US officials said the Defense Intelligence Agency's realignment would not hamper congressional scrutiny. ''We have to keep congressional staffs and members in the loop,'' Flynn said in October, adding that he believes the changes will help the United States anticipate threats.

US officials said the changes were enabled by a rare syncing of personalities and interests at the Pentagon and CIA.

''The stars have been aligning on this for a while,'' said a former senior military official involved in planning the Defense Intelligence Agency's transformation.

Former Defense Department officials said the agency now has about 500 ''case officers'' and the number is expected to reach 800 to 1,000 by 2018.

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Elite$

Americans Who Helped Free Kosovo Return as Entrepreneurs - NYTimes.com

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:18

Akos Stiller

American flags streamed recently above the main street of Pristina, Kosovo's capital. One of the world's newest countries, Kosovo separated from Serbia, with the support of the United States.

PRISTINA, Kosovo '-- Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is in a bind. His country's largest and most lucrative enterprise, the state telecommunications company, is up for sale. The jostling among buyers is intense. Narrowing the bidders has hardly helped.

One bid is from a fund founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. Lobbying for another was James W. Pardew, the Clinton-era special envoy to the Balkans. Both former diplomats are among the Americans who hold the status of heroes here for their roles in the 1999 intervention that separated Kosovo from Serbia and created one of the world's newest states.

In a meeting with Mr. Pardew in October, the prime minister explained his ''difficult position'' in having to choose between the buyers, according to a memo leaked to the newspaper Zeri, ''because whichever of the two bidders behind them wins, he will be seen by 2 million people to have betrayed the other one.''

So many former American officials have returned to Kosovo for business '-- in coal and telecommunications, or for lobbying and other lucrative government contracts '-- that it is hard to keep them from colliding.

They also include Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and the former supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe who ran the bombing campaign against the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic; and Mark Tavlarides, who was legislative director at the Clinton White House's National Security Council.

The State Department has no policy that forbids former diplomats to lobby on behalf of nations where they served or returning to them for profit, beyond the one applying to federal employees as a whole, which prohibits senior officials from contacting agencies where they once worked for one year and bans all federal employees for life from advising on the same matters.

Kosovo is not the only nation where former officials have returned to conduct business '-- Iraq is another example '-- but it presents an extreme case, and perhaps a special ethical quandary, given the outsize American influence here. Pristina, the capital, may be the only city in the world where Bob Dole Street intersects Bill Clinton Boulevard.

Foreign policy experts say the practice of former officials' returning for business is more common than acknowledged publicly. Privately, former officials concede the possibility of conflicts of interest and even the potential to influence American foreign policy as diplomats who traditionally made careers in public service now rotate more frequently to lucrative jobs in the private sector.

Asked for comment, former officials involved said their business dealings with the Kosovo government would benefit Kosovars by building a more prosperous economy. ''We're going to employ people, provide training, create exports and help the country grow and develop as a democracy,'' said General Clark, who is chairman of Envidity, a Canadian energy company seeking to explore Kosovo's lignite coal deposits and produce synthetic fuel.

Lawrence Lessig, a law professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, said the appearance of ''cashing in'' risked undermining the prestige of the United States by clouding the humanitarian nature of the 1999 intervention, which was aimed at ending Serbian atrocities against Kosovars.

After the separation, Kosovo was an international protectorate run by thousands of officials from other countries and the United Nations serving as government representatives and private contractors. Four years of internationally ''supervised independence'' ended in September. About 6,000 peacekeepers remain.

The closeness of the ties between the state-builders and the state they built has made it easy for officials to change hats. Though the country is one of Europe's poorest, there is still the potential for profit, particularly as the government privatizes critical assets.

Albright Capital Management, founded by Ms. Albright, has been shortlisted in the bidding for a 75 percent share in the state telecommunications company, PTK. The company's sale is expected to bring in between $400 million and $800 million.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 12, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated part of the name of the lobbying firm where Mark Tavlarides now works. It is the Podesta Group, not Podesta Associates, which was its original name.

VIDEO-Hillary Clinton Reveals Thoughts on Being Secretary of State, 2016, and Her Hair - ABC News

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:21

When Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down from her post as secretary of state as expected early next year her political career will have spanned over two decades. ABC's Barbara Walters sat down with the secretary to discuss just what makes the secretary so fascinating to so many people around the world, and what the cultural and political icon finds fascinating herself.

Clinton is by far the most popular official in the Obama administration, and is already the leading candidate should she choose to run for president again in 2016. So is this really goodbye for the former first lady, senator and secretary of state? Or will Hillary Clinton, who recently turned 65 years old, re-invent herself once again?

Clinton said that while "all doors are open" for her future, one thing is for certain: She is definitely leaving the cabinet as soon as a new secretary is sworn in and a smooth transition occurs.

Hillary Clinton Announces Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Watch Video'This Week' Roundtable: Hillary Clinton in 2016? Watch VideoBoy, 4, Accidently Shoots Himself in the Head Watch Video"It sounds so simple, but I've been, as you know, at the highest levels of American and now international activities for twenty years, and I just thought it was time to take a step off'... maybe do some reading and writing and speaking and teaching," said Clinton.

She told Walters that she doesn't have a plan for what she'll do immediately after leaving political life but that she wants to continue contributing to society in some way, perhaps in philanthropy or academia. But when pressed on whether that her future includes a widely-speculated 2016 run for president, Clinton maintains that she still does not plan to run.

PHOTOS: Hillary Clinton Through the Years

"I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again," she said. "I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before."

When pressed, however, the secretary does admit that if she did choose to run she would not be concerned about her age. Recently having turned 65, Clinton would be 77 years old if she were to be in office for two terms.

"I am, thankfully, knock on wood, not only healthy, but have incredible stamina and energy," she said. "I just want to see what else is out there. I've been doing, you know, this, this incredibly important and, and satisfying work here in Washington, as I say, for twenty years, I want to get out and spend some time looking at what else I can do to contribute."

Report: CNN To Replace Soledad O'Brien With Erin Burnett

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 22:10

by Tony Lee11 Dec 2012, 9:44 AM PDTpost a commentThe New York Post reported that Zucker is ''looking at Erin Burnett to revive the cabler's moribund morning ratings'' and quotes a CNN source who said Zucker will team Burnett ''up with a guy, and they'll go after the audience watching 'Today' and 'Good Morning America.'"

O'Brien recently told a college audience that when she first heard of Zucker's hire, she thought, "Yes!" because Zucker "knows news. He knows winning. He knows morning TV.''

''To me, Jeff Zucker is synonymous with winning,'' O'Brien said last week at Drexel University, according to Media Bistro. ''He's an incredible news executive. I want to be on a team that strategizes how to win. It's great to have a leader '... I'm thrilled.''

Apparently, Zucker believes CNN's best chance to win the ratings race in the morning is without O'Brien.

According to Nielsen, last Thursday's Starting Point ''got 301,000 viewers on average compared to 537,000 for MSNBC's 'Morning Joe''' while ''Fox and Friends'' beat both programs combined with 1.1 million viewers. "Starting Point" even loses out to HLN in the ratings.

O'Brien was made anchor of "Starting Point" in January of 2012 and, as the Daily Mail notes, replacing O'Brien with Burnett would be "a slap in the face" to O'Brien," especially when one considers Burnett has failed to "gain much traction in prime time with her" show.

On a network that brands itself as being supposedly objective, O'Brien has been anything but -- she has panted over Newark Mayor Cory Booker's food stamp stunt and has been caught reading talking points from liberal blogs to attack Republican guests on the show during live interviews. O'Brien also displayed her lack of knowledge about "Critical Race Theory" when she interviewed Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Joel Pollak about a tape Breitbart News unearthed that showed Barack Obama embracing Derrick Bell, the godfather of the radical legal doctrine. O'Brien was caught parroting a Wikipedia entry on the subject and continued to misrepresent "Critical Race Theory" to her viewers even after she displayed her ignorance about the topic while interviewing Pollak.

O'Brien's partisan nature and acrimony often gives viewers of "Starting Point" a rude awakening.

Bad Bengahzi Actors

Defense Dept. had live video of attack in Benghazi - Washington Times

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:16

Enlarge Photo

**FILE** U.S. envoy Chris Stevens speaks April 11, 2011, to local media ... more >Related StoriesBlog EntriesAround the WebLive video from a drone flying over the U.S. Consulate during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was monitored at a Defense Department facility, but was not fed to the White House, senior officials say.

The Obama administration has declined to respond to media requests for details about who was watching the live video, but a senior defense official told The Washington Times that ''the surveillance aircraft captured footage of events on the ground'' and ''it wasn't available that night at the White House.''

The officials said the ''overhead footage was available at a DOD location,'' and they declined to comment further.

Questions about the drone video have largely gotten lost amid the raucous political theater that has arisen in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and State Department officer Sean Smith were slain.

Some close observers of the Benghazi attack's aftermath are hoping that details about the video will emerge when the findings of the State Department's Accountability Review Board investigation into the attacks are eventually made public.

The review board has conducted its work in secrecy, and its findings and recommendations are expected to draw heavily from classified intelligence about the attack.

On Friday, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would testify publicly about the findings, but gave no date for her appearance.

The State Department this week suggested that the review board findings may be imminent. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Monday that when Mrs. Clinton announced the board's members in late September, she ''asked them to try to meet a 60- to 65-day timeline.''

That would mean the findings could be released during the coming days. ''I don't have any reason to think that we're off base there, but obviously we want them to do it, do it right,'' Mrs. Nuland said.

Various video footage

The digital camera aboard what defense officials have described as an ''unarmed surveillance'' drone, meanwhile, was one of several that recorded portions of the Benghazi attack.

Closed-circuit security cameras fixed to the consulate's outer security walls also captured images.

A senior State Department official said during an Oct. 9 background briefing that one camera ''on the main gate'' of the Benghazi diplomatic mission showed ''a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound'' at about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 11 '-- the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Footage from that camera is thought to be what Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, the Obama administration's top intelligence official, has shown to lawmakers on Capitol Hill during two recent classified briefings about the Benghazi attack.

''It was very difficult to watch,'' Rep. Thomas J. Rooney, Florida Republican and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Dec. 5 after one of the briefings. ''That is U.S. sovereign territory, and for people to just walk in like a street mob and light the embassy on fire it just made you feel extremely helpless.''

Story Continues 'ļ'

View Entire Story(C) Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Follow the Pipes

Turkmenistan, UN discuss issues of global security

Link to Article

Source: WT news feed

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 14:11

Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Dec. 10 /Trend H. Hasanov/

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov received UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman on Monday, the Turkmen government said.

Priorities for the further development of a productive partnership for global security and sustainable development between Turkmenistan and the UN were discussed during the meeting, which was held in a very constructive atmosphere.

The UN envoy arrives to participate in the international conference "Turkmenistan's neutrality and preventive diplomacy: the foundations of peace and security," which will be opened in Ashgabat on Tuesday.

Turkmenistan's cooperation with the UN and its related bodies is one of the key vectors of the country's positive neutrality based foreign policy. The United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia has been located in Ashgabat since 2007.

Turkmenistan has a long border with Afghanistan, on the territory of which there are long-time tensions and instability.

UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Jan Kubis recently visited Ashgabat. He noted important projects in the energy and transport sectors initiated by the Turkmen side, that include the construction of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipe line, that is currently underway.

The start of the project was signed in Ashgabat in late 2010. The Turkmen side conducted several international road shows for TAPI in September with the participation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It was reported that Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, BG Group, RWE, Petronas and other companies became familiarized with the main terms of project implementation and expressed intentions to participate in it.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at agency@trend.az

Shut Up Slave!

New Army Manual Orders Soldiers Not To Criticize Taliban | Judicial Watch

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:45

December 11, 2012 |3 CommentsHere is a strong indicator that the Obama Administration's crusade to appease Islam has gone too far; a new U.S. military handbook for troops deployed to the Middle East orders soldiers not to make derogatory comments about the Taliban or criticize pedophilia, among other outrageous things.

It gets better; the new manual, which is around 75 pages, suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture'-- not Taliban infiltration'--is responsible for the increase in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.

The soon-to-be-released Army handbook is still being drafted, but a mainstream newspaper got a sneak preview and published an article that should infuriate the American taxpayers funding the never-ending war on terror. The manual is being created because someone with authority bought the theory that cultural insensitivity is driving insider attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

More than three dozen insider attacks have killed 63 members of the U.S.-led coalition this year, according to the article, and some blame ''American cultural ignorance.'' The bottom line is that troops may experience social-cultural shock and/or discomfort when interacting with Afghan security forces, the new military handbook says. ''Better situational awareness/understanding of Afghan culture will help better prepare [troops] to more effectively partner and to avoid cultural conflict that can lead toward green-on-blue violence.''

The draft leaked to the newspaper offers a list of ''taboo conversation topics'' that soldiers should avoid, including ''making derogatory comments about the Taliban,'' ''advocating women's rights,'' ''any criticism of pedophilia,'' ''directing any criticism towards Afghans,'' ''mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct'' or ''anything related to Islam.''

At least one high-ranking military official had the backbone to publicly criticize the new manual, albeit through a spokesperson. U.S. Marine General John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, doesn't endorse it and rejected a proposed forward drafted by Army officials in his name. ''He does not approve of its contents,'' according to a military spokesman quoted in the story.

Earlier this year the Obama Administration changed the way federal agents are trained to combat terrorism and violent extremism by eliminating all materials that shed a negative light on Muslims. Under White House orders, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) destroyed instructional material that characterizes Muslims as prone to violence or terrorism in a government-wide call to end Islamophobia.

Under Obama practically every major federal agency has been ordered to participate in Muslim outreach initiatives, including the Justice Department with a special program to protect Islamic civil rights, Homeland Security meetings with extremist Muslim organizations and the nation's space agency (NASA) with an unprecedented mission to focus on Muslim diplomacy.

Additionally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a special order to allow the reentry of two radical Islamic academics whose terrorist ties long banned them from the U.S. and the administration sent an America-bashing mosque leader (Feisal Abdul Rauf) who blames U.S. foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks on a Middle Eastern outreach mission. The Obama Administration even ordered a government-funded meal program for home-bound seniors to offer halal cuisine prepared according to Islamic law.

NTSB Pushing Car Manufactures To Require Driver Intoxication Dectection Devices On All New Cars

Hockey Mask Mall Shooter

Police Say Shooter At Clackamas Mall Stole The Gun He Used

CNN Interviews Eyewitnesses Of Clackamas Mall Shooting In Oregon

Police "Shooter Neutralized" At Clackamas Mall In Oregon

Clackamas Town Center shooting: Police, mall workers trained earlier this year for shooting scenario | OregonLive.com

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 07:53

Six months before a lone gunman burst into Clackamas Town Center Tuesday, firing dozens of rounds into the crowds of shoppers, police and mall employees trained together for just such an emergency.

On Wednesday, police and mall employees credited that training, along with quick thinking and brave actions by some of the estimated 10,000 people at the mall, for saving lives. "To be familiar with all the back hallways and stairwells in advance really was helpful," said Clackamas County sheriff's Capt. Kevin Layng, who coordinated Tuesday's massive law enforcement response.

They also credited a little luck, a short interval when the shooter's gun temporarily jammed.Speaking at a news conference, Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts extended condolences to families of the three people killed in the rampage -- including the shooter. He also expressed sympathy for 15-year-old Kristina Shevchenko of Portland, who underwent surgery at OHSU Hospital to remove bullet fragments from her liver and lung. She is in serious condition and is expected to recover.

"Many people will be affected by this terrible act of violence every day for the rest of their lives," Roberts said. "With two people killed...this was a heartbreaking tragedy by any standard. But, we should be thankful this incident wasn't a lot worse."

Roberts identified the gunman as 22-year-old Jacob Tyler "Jake" Roberts of Southeast Portland, a sandwich-shop employee who took his own life after the shooting spree.The sheriff identified the victims as:

Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, a hospice nurse for Kaiser Permanente who lived in Northeast Portland with her husband. She had a daughter, 23, and a 13-year-old stepson

Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45, of West Linn, a long-time radio sales manager who owned his own marketing agency and ran a custom coaster-making business at the mall. He was waiting in the food court for his wife and stepdaughter, who were shopping in Macy's. He also has a son in eighth grade.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to their families," Roberts said.

In late spring, several teams of sheriff's deputies worked with the Clackamas Town Center's unarmed security staff to put on a one-day training seminar during which they staged several "active shooter" scenarios. The security staff later advised mall tenants on how they would be informed of emergencies and how to respond."We chose the active-shooter scenario to train with because a real incident has the greatest potential for multiple injuries through an act of violence," said Sgt. Adam Phillips, sheriff's office spokesman. "We actually have trained in several different locations over the years -- schools, businesses and the courthouse. But this last time, we chose the Town Center."

The Town Center isn't alone.

Shopping centers nationwide started training in case of attack after 9/11, said Malachy Kavanagh spokesman for the International Council for Shopping Centers. Over time, Kavanagh said, the threat shifted from terrorists to "lone wolves," shooters who are distraught or disenfranchised from the world.

"These individuals who commit these acts are basically looking to do it in a place where they have the most impact," he said. Malls, often one of the largest gathering places within a community, are targets of opportunity. Since 2005, at least 10 other shootings have occurred at North American malls, including four since June.

The training paid off Tuesday at Clackamas Town Center.

As soon as the 9-1-1 calls came, around 3:29 p.m., dispatchers radioed emergency responders, informing them that an active-shooter call was in progress near Macy's and in the mall's food court.

That's when sheriff's Capt. Layng assumed the role of incident commander.

Because there were so many unknowns and given the potential for a wholesale slaughter, the ensuing call-out was massive. More than 100 police from federal, state and local agencies swarmed the mall, bringing resources and expertise. The first deputies arrived on the scene in one minute of the initial call.

"My biggest duty was to coordinate all the resources coming my way at the same time," Layng said. "We were overwhelmed -- in a good way -- with resources."

Layng then initiated an "active-shooter protocol," whereby each trained officer teams up with a partner and moves immediately toward the threat. Because of their similar training and shared goal of advancing toward and neutralizing the threat, officers from different agencies arrived "on the same page," though they came from the FBI, federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, Oregon State Police and police departments in Portland, Milwaukie, Gladstone, Oregon City, Canby, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Molalla, Sandy and Woodburn.Besides agents, the FBI sent negotiators, evidence technicians and analysts, said Beth Anne Steele, FBI spokeswoman in Portland.

The heavy police presence immediately curtailed the gunman's ability to move around the mall.

At 3:45 p.m., emergency response officials declared a "second alarm" emergency, and the region's medical agencies activated a system of phone calls, radio messages, texts and emails mobilizing ambulances, helicopters and emergency rooms.

Then, following their agreed-upon plans, mall security officers placed the 1.4 million square-foot facility on lock-down, blocking the entrances.

Stores rolled down their security gates and hustled customers to safety, away from their doors.

Twenty-two minutes after the first call came in, police found Roberts' body at the bottom of a stairwell near JC Penney.

Investigators soon pieced together this sequence of events: Roberts parked his 1996 Volkswagen Jetta in the Town Center parking lot about 3:25 p.m. and began walking toward the Macy's department store entrance, carrying a stolen semiautomatic AR-15 rifle while wearing a white hockey-style facemask and a load-bearing vest apparently stuffed with ammunition. When he reached the second-level area in front of Macy's, facing the food court, he opened fire, fatally wounding Yuille and Forsyth.

Kristina Shevchenko, was shot at an another as-yet-unknown location, then later made it outside on her own near REI.

After unleashing a fusillade, Jacobs ran toward JC Penney, turned left past Macy's Home Store and descended a service stairwell, where he shot himself. Police found his body about 3:41 p.m.

But the incident was far from over.

Clackamas Town Center shooting: Wednesday morning news conferenceClackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts talks about the events at the Clackamas Town Center mall that left two shoppers dead, and the shooter dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.Watch videoAn estimated 7,000 shoppers and another 3,000 employees were in the Town Center when the shooting erupted. Many stampeded out, screaming, before the entrances were locked down.Police then evacuated the mall's theaters and began escorting crowds of theater-goes and shoppers outside, where TriMet buses were stationed to transport witnesses to be interviewed.

At the same time, SWAT teams from Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police, the FBI and Portland police conducted a thorough search of all the stores, concourses, back hallways and storage areas. OSP's SWAT team already was training together in Salem, so they were ready to immediately deploy.

Layng said the active-shooter scenario training really paid off.

As law enforcement locked down the mall, emergency medical personnel performed lightning triage. Luckily, only Kristina was seriously injured. About a half-dozen others had minor injuries such scraped knees and elbows, the result of falling or being jostled amid fleeing shoppers.

Sheriff Roberts said a physician and two off-duty emergency room nurses volunteered their services, tending to those with mostly minor injuries until emergency crews could arrive to take over.

"It really was about a whole number of people coming together to make a difference," Roberts said.

Roberts also credited a little luck for the more favorable outcome. He said Jacob Roberts had stolen the rifle from an acquaintance in North Portland and may not have known how to operate it well. Police found several fully loaded magazines discarded on the mall floor.

"The gun jammed, at some point," Roberts said. "He was able to get it going again later to shoot himself. But if it hadn't jammed..."

The mall remained closed Wednesday as investigators continued their work and will remain closed today. Shoppers and employees who dropped their packages and personal items during evacuation can reclaim their property once the investigation is completed. Mall officials will announce their reopening on their web site and telephone information line 503-653-6913.

The mall also needs some repairs to windows and glass facades on the mezzanine that were shattered by gunfire. The empty shell casings '' and the blood '' already have been cleaned up.

More challenging will be the emotional trauma suffered by people in the mall when the shooting broke out. Volunteers with the county's Trauma Intervention Program have made themselves available to trauma victims. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Wednesday the Department of Justice is offering emergency financial help to pay for counseling.

Roberts said investigators so far have been unable to find a motive for the rampage, and friends and neighbors couldn't imagine what turned an energetic, fun-loving friend into a killer.

There were signs, though, that Jacob Roberts' world was changing. In the past year, he broke up with his girlfriend, got evicted from his apartment and quit his job.

He recently told friends he had inherited money and was moving to Hawaii, then didn't go. Samantha Bennett, who said "Jake" had once been a good friend, stop hearing from him in July.

"It's like he disappeared off the face of the planet," she said. "What changed in his head?"

Staff writers Steve Mayes, Heather Steeves, Molly Young and Nick Budnick of The Oregonian contributed to this report.

-- Rick Bella Follow @southnewshound

Jacob Roberts' acquaintance says 'he was always just joking around' at Big Bertha's

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Thu, 13 Dec 2012 00:17

Clackamas Town Center shooting: Jacob Roberts' acquaintance says 'he was always just joking around' at Big Bertha's

A woman who knew the man accused of shooting at least three people at Clackamas Town Center on Tuesday said he always seemed light hearted and friendly on the job."He was always just joking around with customers," said Arianna Johnson of Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22. "I've never seen him act out of hand or poorly toward anyone."

Johnson was speaking Wednesday about noon outside the door of Big Bertha's, a late-night sandwich shop at 4809 S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard. She said she is a friend of the owner who sometimes works on her own projects at the shop.

Along with well-known night spots such as the Space Room and the Bar of the Gods, Big Bertha's is in the shadow of Mount Tabor.

Friday The 13th: The Film Franchise: Warner Bros. Releasing Paramount Friday The 13th Library This January?!

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 07:56

By jasonsfury - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It has been sort of a whirlwind of rumor and news since it was first reported Paramount was "leasing" out 600 titles to Warner Bros. for home video distribution a few months ago. Naturally, when the news broke, our staff and the fans immediately thought of the first eight films in the franchise that were distributed by Paramount. No official word was given by the WB on which films were part of the deal outside of some of the major titles, so we were left with speculation and hope.Towards the end of October it was leaked that Warner Bros. did indeed gain rights for home distribution of the first eight Friday The 13th films. Since that point, there has been no word officially from the company on their plans for the Horror franchise on their home video label, but online retail websites are now telling us otherwise.

According to websites such as Blu-Ray.com, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, Warner Bros. is not wasting any time as it looks as though their new deal, which starts on January 1, 2013, will be their first release date of the Paramount films on not only Blu-Ray, but DVD as well! Now, this could all change, but when multiple websites and retail outlets are listing discs for sale on the same date, it is a pretty good bet this is going to happen.

Friday The 13th 1980, Friday The 13th Part 2, and Friday The 13th Part 3 are being released on Blu-Ray and all eight Paramount films look to be released on DVD.

So, what can we expect on these discs? Sadly, the first releases of the films may very well be bare bone editions, and Part 3 may not even be released in 3D! At this moment, there is no cover art displayed for the titles, so guess away on what Warner Bros. will use on the cases. In the mean time, what do you think of our take on what can be used!?

Cyber War$

Group Says It Plans To Continue Cyber Attacks On U.S. Banks Until Mohammed Film Removed From YouTube'...

Link to Article

Source: Weasel Zippers

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 05:53

Via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A protest group that claimed responsibility for a wave of digital attacks on big U.S. banks in the fall '-- including Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank '-- apparently has PNC in its crosshairs again.

The al-Qassam Cyber Fighters said in an Internet posting that the group plans a second round of attacks this week on PNC and four other banks '-- JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, U.S. Bank and SunTrust.

A spokeswoman for PNC was not immediately available for comment.

In September, PNC's online banking operations were disrupted for a couple of days by the so-called denial of service attacks, which flood websites with communications requests.

In the latest phase, ''the wideness and the number of attacks will increase explicitly,'' the protest group said in a message posted on a website called Pastebin.

The group has said the attacks would continue until a YouTube video insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad was removed from the Internet.

EARon

VIDEO-Hillary Clinton Reveals Thoughts on Being Secretary of State, 2016, and Her Hair - ABC News

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:21

When Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down from her post as secretary of state as expected early next year her political career will have spanned over two decades. ABC's Barbara Walters sat down with the secretary to discuss just what makes the secretary so fascinating to so many people around the world, and what the cultural and political icon finds fascinating herself.

Clinton is by far the most popular official in the Obama administration, and is already the leading candidate should she choose to run for president again in 2016. So is this really goodbye for the former first lady, senator and secretary of state? Or will Hillary Clinton, who recently turned 65 years old, re-invent herself once again?

Clinton said that while "all doors are open" for her future, one thing is for certain: She is definitely leaving the cabinet as soon as a new secretary is sworn in and a smooth transition occurs.

Hillary Clinton Announces Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Watch Video'This Week' Roundtable: Hillary Clinton in 2016? Watch VideoBoy, 4, Accidently Shoots Himself in the Head Watch Video"It sounds so simple, but I've been, as you know, at the highest levels of American and now international activities for twenty years, and I just thought it was time to take a step off'... maybe do some reading and writing and speaking and teaching," said Clinton.

She told Walters that she doesn't have a plan for what she'll do immediately after leaving political life but that she wants to continue contributing to society in some way, perhaps in philanthropy or academia. But when pressed on whether that her future includes a widely-speculated 2016 run for president, Clinton maintains that she still does not plan to run.

PHOTOS: Hillary Clinton Through the Years

"I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again," she said. "I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before."

When pressed, however, the secretary does admit that if she did choose to run she would not be concerned about her age. Recently having turned 65, Clinton would be 77 years old if she were to be in office for two terms.

"I am, thankfully, knock on wood, not only healthy, but have incredible stamina and energy," she said. "I just want to see what else is out there. I've been doing, you know, this, this incredibly important and, and satisfying work here in Washington, as I say, for twenty years, I want to get out and spend some time looking at what else I can do to contribute."

VIDEO-Hillary Clinton: Iran 'Exports Terrorism' to Mexico | CNS News

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 08:59

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) '' Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Iran ''exports terrorism'' in a global fashion that ''stretches from Mexico to Thailand.

''We already know very well that the Iranian regime already exports terrorism, not only to Israel's doorstep, but across the world,'' Clinton said. ''If we had a map I could put up there, I could show you what we track and plot on that map.

''The evidence of terrorism, mostly, thankfully, plots foiled or unsuccessful, unfortunately, as in Bulgaria, some that succeeded,'' Clinton said. ''But those plots, those activities of Iran directly or through their agents, stretches from Mexico to Thailand.''

Clinton said that the United States and other nations around the world should put a stop to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

''America, Israel and the entire international community must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,'' Clinton said, adding that President Barack Obama has made a ''commitment'' to that goal.

''This year's forum followed closely after the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, as well U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's mission to the region last week and President Abbas' upcoming bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations,'' the center's website states.

Obama Nation

Obama Takes The Christmas Out Of The White House Christmas Card... | Weasel Zippers

VIDEO-Obama Jobs Council Head: State-Run Communism Works | MRCTV

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:28

Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE and chair of President Obama's job council, told CBS that state-run Communism works, and that he tells his employees to read China's five-year plan because he admires the efficiency of the Chinese government.

(HT Fox Nation)

Right-to-work law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:19

A right-to-work law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. "Right-to-work" laws do not, as the short phrase might suggest, aim to provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers.

Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-four U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft''Hartley Act. A further distinction is often made within the law between those employed by state and municipal governments and those employed by the private sector with states that are otherwise union shop (i.e., pay union dues or lose the job) having right to work laws in effect for government employees.

The Taft''Hartley Act (1947)Before Congress passed the Taft''Hartley Act over President Harry S. Truman's veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Before the Taft-Hartley amendments, an employee who ceased being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer's rules.

The Taft''Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop. The union shop rule, which required all new employees to join the union after a minimum period after their hire, is also illegal.[1] Under the law, it is illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union.

A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join such union.

Section 14(b) of the Taft''Hartley Act goes further and authorizes individual states (but not local governments, such as cities or counties) to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule, an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work for a willing employer, regardless of whether or not he is a member or financial contributor to such a union.

The Federal Government operates under open shop rules nationwide, though many of its employees are represented by unions. Unions that represent professional athletes have written contracts that include exclusive representation provisions (for example in the National Football League),[2] but their application is limited to "wherever and whenever legal," as the Supreme Court has clearly held that the application of a Right to Work law is determined by the employee's "predominant job situs."[3] Hence, players on professional sports teams in states with Right to Work laws are protected by those laws, and cannot be required to pay any portion of union dues as a condition of continued employment.[4]

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia do not have right-to-work laws.

ArgumentsProponentsProponents of right-to-work laws point to the Constitutional right to freedom of association, as well as the common-law principle of private ownership of property. They argue that workers should be free to join unions and to refrain, and thus sometimes refer to non-right-to-work states as forced unionism states.[5]

Proponents such as the Mackinac Center contend that it is unfair that unions can require new and existing employees to either join the union or pay fair share fees for collective bargaining expenses as a condition of employment under union security agreement contracts.[6]

Northwestern University economist Thomas Holmes, now at University of Minnesota, compared counties close to the border between states with and without right-to-work laws (thereby holding constant an array of factors related to geography and climate). He found that the cumulative growth of employment in manufacturing in the right-to-work states was 26 percentage points greater than that in the non-right-to-work states.[7] However, given the study design, Holmes points out "my results do not say that it is right-to-work laws that matter, but rather that the 'probusiness package' offered by right-to-work states seems to matter".[8] Moreover, as noted by Kevin Drum and others, this result may reflect business relocation rather than overall enhancement of economic growth, since "businesses prefer locating in states where costs are low and rules are lax".[9]

Due to other similarities between states that have passed right-to-work laws, it is difficult to analyze these laws by comparing states; for instance, right-to-work states often have a number of strong pro-business policies, making it difficult to isolate the effect of right-to-work laws.[10] A March 3, 2008 editorial in The Wall Street Journal compared Ohio to Texas and examined why "Texas is prospering while Ohio lags". According to the editorial, during the previous decade, while Ohio lost 10,400 jobs, Texas gained 1,615,000 new jobs. The opinion piece proposed several possible reasons for the economic expansion in Texas, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the absence of a state income tax, and right-to-work laws.[11]

Nobel laureate economist F.A. Hayek endorsed right-to-work laws, writing:

If legislation, jurisdiction, and the tolerance of executive agencies had not created privileges for the unions, the need for special legislation concerning them would probably not have arisen in common-law countries. But, once special privileges have become part of the law of the land, they can be removed only by special legislation. Though there ought to be no need for special 'right-to-work laws,' it is difficult to deny that the situation created in the United States by legislation and by the decisions of the Supreme Court may make special legislation the only practicable way of restoring the principles of freedom. Footnote: Such legislation, to be consistent with our principles, should not go beyond declaring certain contracts invalid, which is sufficient for removing all pretext to action to obtain them. It should not, as the title of the 'right-to-work laws' may suggest, give individuals a claim to a particular job, or even (as some of the laws in force in certain American states do) confer a right to damages for having denied a particular job, when the denial is not illegal on other grounds. The objections against such provisions are the same as those that apply to 'fair employment practices' laws.[12]

OpponentsOpponents argue that right-to-work laws restrict freedom of association, and limit on the sorts of agreements individuals acting collectively can make with their employer, by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include "fair share fees". This creates a free rider problem[13][14] since unless non-union employees pay fair share fees, they are benefiting from collective bargaining without paying union dues. Thus, the services provided to them by the union contract are being subsidized by paying union members.[13][15]

The AFL-CIO union federation argues that by weakening unions, the laws create a race to the bottom, leading to lower wages[15] and worse safety and health conditions for workers. A race to the bottom can result in low-level equilibrium, where states are unable to raise labor standards for fear of capital flight.[16] For these reasons, unions refer to right-to-work states as "right to work for less" states[17] or "right-to-fire" states, and to non-right-to-work states as "free collective bargaining" states.

Business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation in the Southern states.[13][18][19][20] Critics from organized labor have argued since the late 1970s[21] that while the National Right to Work Committee purports to engage in grass-roots lobbying on behalf of the "little guy", the National Right to Work Committee was formed by a group of southern businessmen with the express purpose of fighting unions, and that they "added a few workers for the purpose of public relations".[22]

The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business,[22][23][24] and other groups.[21]

Studies of economic impactA February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found:[25]

Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states, after controlling for individual, job, and state-level characteristics. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in [the study's] regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.However, this study did not account for unemployment rates, GDP per capita, nor relative costs-of-living in its comparison, which are also considerations in employment studies[citation needed].

ComparisonsThe United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2011 Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates,[26] shows median hourly wages of all 22 Right to Work States (RTW) and all 28 Collective-Bargaining States (CBS) as follows:

OccupationMedian wages in Right-to-work statesMedian wages in Collective-bargaining statesDifferenceAll occupations$15.31/hour$16.89/hour-$1.58/hour (-9.4%)Middle school teacher$49,306/year$55,863/year-$6557/year (-11.7%)Computer support specialist$46,306/year$50,641/year-$4335/year (-8.6%)CBS third-quarter 2011 COLI (cost-of-living index) 117.03RTW third-quarter 2011 COLI 94.46 (-19.3%)The above data does not factor in the COLI for each state. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research the cost of living index for California in 2009 was 132% of the national average while Texas was 90.2%. This pattern holds true between the right-to-work states in the South and Midwest and the non-right-to-work states in the higher cost regions. Adjusting pay for these regional cost differences results in higher real buying power in most of the right-to-work states.[27][28]

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics shows unemployment rates for states as of April 2012, seasonally adjusted,[29] to average as follows:

CBS average unemployment rate 7.5%RTW average unemployment rate 6.9%U.S. states with right-to-work lawsThe following states are right-to-work states:

In addition, the territory of Guam also has right-to-work laws, and employees of the US Federal Government have the right to choose whether or not to join their respective unions.

' An employee's right to work is established under the state Constitution, not under legislative action.' ' An employee's right to work is established under the state Constitution, and there is also a statute.

See alsoReferences^"Can I be required to be a union member or pay dues to a union?". National Right To Work. http://www.nrtw.org/a/a_1_p.htm. Retrieved 2011-08-27.^NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement 2006-2012: Art. V, Sec. 1.^Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, Int'l Union v. Mobil Oil Corp., 426 U.S. 407, 414 (1976) (Marshall, J.).^Orr v. National Football League Players Ass'n, 145 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2224, 1993 WL 604063 (Va.Cir.Ct. 1993).^Campbell, Simon. "Right-to-Work vs Forced Unionism". StopTeacherStrikes, Inc.. http://www.stopteacherstrikes.org/Forced_Unionism.php. Retrieved November 14, 2012. "Fair share is compulsory dues. A non-union employee is forced to financially support an organization they did not vote for, in order to receive monopoly representation they have no choice over. It is financial coercion and a violation of freedom of choice. Money is forcibly withheld from non-union employees' paychecks and sent to a private organization. When an agency-shop agreement exists in a school district or county, every employee must pay dues to the union as a condition of their employment. They must pay-up or leave. Should anyone's ability to get or keep a job depend on whether they pay dues to a union? Non-union teachers have struggled in court to try and stop their forced dues from being used for political activity by the union."^Improvement #3: Remove Union Security Clauses Mackinac Center for Public Policy^Barro, Robert (February 28, 2011). "Opinion: Unions vs. the Right to Work". Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704150604576166011983939364.html. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^Holmes, Thomas The Location of Industry: Do States' Policies Matter?^Drum, Kevin (2011-2-28) Unions and GrowthMother Jones^Holmes, Thomas J. (1998). "The Effect of State Policies on the Location of Manufacturing: Evidence from State Borders". Journal of Political Economy106 (4): 667''705. doi:10.1086/250026.^Texas v. Ohio, The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2008. Accessed July 18, 2008.^Carney, Timothy (2011-02-23) A strong argument in favor of Right to Work (featuring F.A. Hayek), Washington Examiner^ abc"The South Carolina Governance Project '-- Interest Groups in South Carolina,"Center for Governmental Services, Institute for Public Service and Policy Research, University of South Carolina, Accessed July 6, 2007.^Dinan, Elizabeth (January 14, 2011). "N.H. Rep. proposes right to work law". Seacoast Online. http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110114/NEWS/101140396/-1/NEWSMAP. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^ abGreenhouse, Steven (January 3, 2011). "States Seek Laws to Curb Power of Unions". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/business/04labor.html?pagewanted=2.^Deakin, Simon; Reed, Hannah (2000). "The Contested Meaning of Labour Market Flexibility". Social Law and Policy. Oxford [u.a.]: Hart. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-84113-107-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=XvJPjUgKp7EC&lpg=PA83&dq=race%20to%20the%20bottom%20right%20to%20work&pg=PA83#v=onepage&q&f=false.^"The Truth About Right to Work for Less" (PDF). AFL-CIO. http://www.aflcio.org/content/download/4358/46418/version/1/file/rtw.pdf. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^Miller, Berkeley; Canak, William (1991). "From 'Porkchoppers' to 'Lambchoppers': The Passage of Florida's Public Employee Relations Act". Industrial and Labor Relations Review44 (2): 349''66. doi:10.2307/2524814. JSTOR 2524814.^Partridge, Dane M. (1997). "Virginia's New Ban on Public Employee Bargaining: A Case Study of Unions, Business, and Political Competition". Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal10 (2): 127''39. doi:10.1023/A:1025657412651.^Canak, William; Miller, Berkeley (1990). "Gumbo Politics: Unions, Business, and Louisiana Right-to-Work Legislation". Industrial and Labor Relations Review43 (2): 258''71. doi:10.2307/2523703. JSTOR 2523703.^ abhttp://www.library.gsu.edu/dlib/iam/getBrandedPDF.asp?issue_id=1883[dead link] "Examining the opposition's tangled web '-- the who's who in the right wing" The Machinist, published by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO/CLC, October 1977; accessed February 4, 2008^ abhttp://www.uawlocal3520.org/right%20to%20workfliner.pdf[dead link] "Questions and Answers about the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation," United Auto Workers, Accessed February 3, 2008.^"National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation,"Media Transparency, Accessed July 24, 2007.^"John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.", Media Transparency, Accessed July 24, 2007.^Gould, Elise; Shierholz, Heidi (2011). "The Compensation penalty of ''right-to-work'' laws"" (PDF). http://www.epi.org/page/-/old/briefingpapers/BriefingPaper299.pdf. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^"May 2011 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates". Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDOJ. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^Koo, Jahyeong; Phillips, Keith R. ; Sigalla, Fiona D. (January 2000). "Measuring Regional Cost of Living". Journal of Business & Economic Statistics.^Zumalt, Joseph R.; Smith, Rebecca A.; Song, Yoo-Seong (December 22, 2003). "Cost-of-living calculators on the Web: an empirical snapshot". Reference & User Services Quarterly.^"Unemployment Rates for States". Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDOJ. http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm. Retrieved 2012-12-11.^Schneider, Mary Beth; Sikich, Chris (February 1, 2012). "Indiana Gov. Daniels signs 'right to work' bill; protest winds through Super Bowl Village". The Indianapolis Star. http://www.indystar.com/article/20120201/NEWS05/120201020/Daniels-signs-hard-fought-right-work-measure. Retrieved February 1, 2012.^http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20682190External linksSupporting right-to-work lawsOpposed to right-to-work laws

MICHAEL MOORE IS FEED UP!

"Good, New, UNION, Jobs" Obama Takes Swipe at Right-to-Work Laws in Michigan

Link to Article

Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 06:45

President Obama took a passing swipe at Michigan's new right-to-work law during his speech in the state today. He referenced the "good, new, union, jobs," a sign of support for unions which have been fighting attempts to make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Hitch-hikers

PedoBear

Drone Nation

Drone Strike Kills Al Qaeda Leader AND AT LEAST 2 Others

Secret Space Plane Just Launched on a Mystery Mission | Danger Room | Wired.com

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:29

The first X-37B returns from its debut mission in December 2010. Photo: Air Force

Updated 1:12pm.

After a delay of nearly two months owing to a technical glitch, the Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane blasted off again from Cape Canaveral, Florida, atop an Atlas rocket on Tuesday.

The launch starts the third mission in three years for the robotic X-37 fleet, assembled in Boeing's now-shuttered Building 31 in Huntington Beach, California, for an estimated $1 billion apiece. But for all the time spent in orbit by the two school bus-size spacecraft '-- 693 days in all '-- it's no more clear today precisely what the Air Force has been up to with the X-37s.

Officially, the solar- and battery-powered X-37s are strictly experimental craft, meant to ''demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform'' while also ''operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth,'' according to the Air Force.

''Take a payload up, spend up to 270 days on orbit,'' is how Gary Payton, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, explained the X-37'”s mission. ''They'll run experiments to see if the new technology works, then bring it all back home and inspect it to see what was really going on in space.''

But the Air Force has consistently declined to state exactly what those experiments might be. And in theory the X-37s could also carry spy sensors or gear for hacking enemy satellites. That and the lack of specific information has elicited protests from the Chinese government, which has vowed to build a space plane of its own.

The opacity also makes a mockery of the State Department's international campaign for greater space transparency. Just last week in Vietnam, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank Rose quoted former U.N. head Boutros Boutros-Ghali. ''To avoid conflicts based on misperceptions and mistrust, it is imperative that we promote transparency and other confidence-building measures '-- in armaments, in threatening technologies, in space and elsewhere,'' Rose said.

Some observers question the space plane's official story. ''Because it is an Air Force project and details about it are classified, and because it does not have a clear mission compared to simpler systems, this project has generated confusion, speculation and in some cases concern about its purpose,'' the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Massachusetts-based think tank, stated in a November fact sheet.

The concern could be warranted. The X-37B is a scaled-up version of NASA's X-37A, abandoned by the space agency in 2004. Able to deliver small payloads from its pickup truck bed-size bay, nimbly maneuver across orbits and automatically land like an airplane once its fuel reserves are depleted, the X-37B is essentially a miniature edition of NASA's Space Shuttle, retired 18 months ago after three decades of service.

But unlike the 120-ton Space Shuttle, the six-ton X-37 is too small to deploy large satellites or support complex space experiments, the kind that might require a human being present.

With no human crew, the X-37B's design doesn't really make sense for scientific use, the UCS points out. ''The ability to return to Earth carries a high cost,'' according to the think tank's fact sheet. ''Many missions in space do not require bringing a spacecraft back to Earth, and the space plane makes no sense for those. And even in cases when return does make sense, a spacecraft can land using a parachute rather than wings and landing gear.''

''While this 'space plane' could perform a range of missions, in each case we can identify a better, more efficient, and/or cheaper way of doing each of those tasks,'' UCS concluded.

In the absence of a clearer explanation from the Air Force, John Pike from the Virginia-based Globalsecurity.org claimed, half-jokingly, that confusion was the whole point. ''It acquired a life of its own,'' Pike said of the X-37. ''And now to the extent that it might be said to have any larger purpose, it would be to bewilder the Chinese.''

Now, we're sure that's not true. But that doesn't mean we have any idea what the space planes are really for.

F-Russia

New Russian motto: Legalize prostitution - collect taxes - English pravda.ru

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:50

07.12.2012

The situation on the Russian market of sex services may soon dramatically change. Prostitutes will not be cheaper, and the moral climate in the society will not get better. Instead of vulnerability before the officials and clients, prostitutes would have "safety certificates" and those enjoying their bodies would have confidence that they are not dealing with a hotbed of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. A conference to discuss the initiative on the development of a law on legalization of prostitution was held in Moscow under the motto "legalize prostitution - collect taxes". The idea was supported by a State Duma deputy from the party "United Russia" Joseph Kobzon.

The initiative on legalization of prostitution and the conference was originated by the fund "Morality Police." The document of the organization, called a draft federal law "On state regulation and control of sexual services" suggested calling prostitutes "individual entrepreneurs engaged in providing sexual services," and their clients - "consumers of sexual services." The authors of the bill proposed to consider underground prostitution only sexual activities meant to obtain "income in the form of money or other material benefits." The bill addresses the relationship between "entrepreneurs" and "consumers" as well as tax and other government agencies.

Duma deputy Joseph Kobzon supported the idea of '—'—the bill with reservations. He noted that the bill was just an excuse to start a great debate, perhaps even a referendum. "As soon as the State Duma starts drafting a law on prostitution, it will immediately raise the question of the need of its approval in the second reading by the government and presidential administration. Once the government feels that this law has a financial component, [...] that there will be a need to allocate money from the budget to combat prostitution, it will be voted down," said Kobzon. According to him, the money will be needed first of all for the maintenance of the new police unit - morality police.

Speaking after Kobzon, spokeswoman of the informal union of sex workers "Silver Rose" Oksana Yartseva noted that taxes that are rampant in prostitution "settle in the pockets of corruption."

De facto prostitution flourishes in Russia, and the existing laws are obsolete. In the current Russian legislation Article 6.11 in the Code of Administrative Offences provides for a fine for prostitution between 1,500 and 2,000 rubles. There are two articles of the Criminal Code against pimps and keepers of brothels. They are "Involvement in prostitution" (up to a maximum of eight years in prison) and "Organization of prostitution" (ten years).

The conference overlooked the fact that talking about prostitutes we normally think of women, and thinking of customers we think of men only, which is not quite true. Everyone knows about the existence of male prostitution - and not just for the gay.

Sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya was among the most prominent opponents of legalization of prostitution at the conference. She did not like the fact that "it can be done by any girl who graduated from high school." The opponents of this bill have two main arguments. The law on the legalization of prostitution is contrary to the traditional moral values '—'—and would lead to a greater spread of this vicious phenomenon. Ms. Kryshtanovskaya who specializes in the study of elites also mentioned sex tourism: "Would we face a huge influx of migrant sex tourists who will be coming along with their male migrant workers? How will it impact our demographic situation?"

In contrast to the arguments of morality and increasing number of prostitutes, the rhetorical question of Olga Kryshtanovskaya is very pertinent. The first oldest profession safely existed from time immemorial and, apparently, in one form or another will exist as long as the human race exists. As for Christianity, according to Jesus, individual prostitutes have a chance to enter the kingdom of heaven before priests and the elders. The spread of prostitution, as noted by Joseph Kobzon, is affected by social problems.

As long as Russia stays a poor country, the officials should think hard before legalizing prostitution. Otherwise, Russia can turn into semblance of Thailand that has become the center of world sex tourism. Russia should also look at the experience of Germany. Prostitution in Germany is legal in Protestant lands and prohibited in Catholic Bavaria. However, the ban does not lead to the destruction of brothels but, rather, drives them underground.

Igor Bukker

Pravda.Ru

Read the original in Russian

Agenda 21

EurActiv.com | ..

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 11:11

EU reveals carbon-market reform package

Published: 14.11.2012The Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said that although the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) was delivering emissions reductions, a glut of allowances was holding back investments in energy efficiency and green technologies.

''We must not flood a market that is already oversupplied,'' she said. ''Market operators must have clarity before year-end on this.''

''At the same time, the Commission presents options for possible structural measures that can provide a sustainable solution to the surplus in the longer term,'' she added.

The Commission's report estimates an oversupply of up to 2 billion allowances that is unlikely to decline before 2020, and proposes several potential remedies:

Increasing the EU emission reduction target to 30% in 2020;Permanently cancelling a number of allowances in Phase III (as of 2013);Increasing the 1.74% annual decline in the cap on allowances that can be allocated to member states up to and beyond 2020;Extending the scope of the Emissions Trading System, or ETS, to other sectors;Limiting the use of international credits in the ETS;Introducing discretionary price management mechanisms, such as a carbon price floor or reserve price.Any of these options would require a new legislative proposal, accompanied by an impact assessment, a lengthy process.

But the report indicates that the ETS will be ''critical'' in driving low carbon investments and that it will need to play ''an increased role'' in the transition to a low carbon economy by 2050.

Marcus Ferdinand, a senior market analyst at Reuters Thomson Point Carbon, said the Commission's options appeared to have been listed according to the European Commission's preferences.

''The cleanest options for sure would be to go for a 30% target, or to change the 1.74% factor of the cap,'' he told EurActiv, citing these options' power to transform the overall market structure towards helping long-term emissions reductions.

Commission officials believe that the 1.74% factor as it stands would impel the ETS to reduce Europe's non-aviation related emissions to more than 70% of the 2005 level by 2050, an arrow in the quiver for future arguments over 2030 targets.

Quick fix

But A ''quick-fix'' permanent cancellation was the only realisable short-term option that Ferdinand could see.

His analysis was backed by Rhian Kelly, the environmental director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

''We would be delighted if an option was put forward to deliver a 2030 package '' including greenhouse gas targets '' and a consequential reform to the ETS directive for Phase 4 of the directive,'' Kelly told EurActiv.

This option will now go out to stakeholders, along with the rest of the carbon market proposals to be ''discussed and explored without delay,'' the paper says.

The proposal would also replace the current 27 national ETS registries with a single Union-wide registry and implements harmonised rules for free allocations.

900 million reasons to be cheerful?

The structural report follows a 'backload' or delay in the auctioning of 900 million carbon allowances in Phase III of the ETS, which begins next year, and was announced late on 12 November to avoid press leaks.

The information is considered market sensitive and indeed, carbon prices rose slightly to over '≠¬9 in anticipation of the move. This is an improvement on recent price lows of around '≠¬6 a tonne, although still well below the '≠¬30 a tonne expected just four years ago.

''Many market participants traded on the rumour and sold on the news,'' Ferdinand said. But even a cancellation of the backloaded allowances would only raise carbon allowances to around '≠¬15 a tonne by 2020, he said.

Rather than cancel them, the EU plans to auction the backloaded allowances in the last two years of the 2013-2020 trading period, to create an interim scarcity that boosts prices.

However, the temporary nature of the allowances' removal from the market could be quickly factored into future prices by market traders.

The CBI does not support the EU's backloading proposals, but Kelly said she was agnostic about their future use.

''If there seems to be a kink in the [market] curve around 2020, then it may be that short-term intervention is needed and you might want to have backloading and cancellations,'' she said.

The 900 million figure was the middle option of the EU's three suggested figures '' 400 million, 900 million and 1.2 billion allowances.

Obstacles to reform

Any effort to strengthen the EU's low-carbon goals is likely to prove an anathema to some EU states, such as Poland.

Warsaw's positioning is supported by the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament, whose MEPs have delayed passage of legislation needed to allow the Commission to implement market reforms, to the dismay of their Greens and Socialist colleagues.

On 5 November, EPP Chairman Joseph Daul sent a letter to Commission President Jos(C) Manuel Barroso and Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard urging the Commission to postpone submission of any backloading regulation until after spring 2013.

The backloading issue also divides European businesses protecting low-carbon investments, from energy-intensive industries which say that they fear carbon leakage.

''We don't believe in any interference with a well-functioning market mechanism,'' said Susanne Kuschel, a spokeswoman for the German company BASF.

''It doesn't matter how many allowances you take out, whether you backload them or set them aside permanently, markets go up and they go down and if you artificially intervene in them, you destroy their confidence,'' she said.

This position is strongly supported by BusinessEurope, the employers' confederation, which claims to speak on behalf of all of Europe's employers.

But a letter sent to MEPs by 16 major companies '' including Shell, Unilever, EDF, GDF Suez, Statoil and GE '' calls for ''urgent intervention'' in the carbon markets, as well as longer term structural measures.

''We hope that the Climate Change Committee endorses the back-loading proposal before January 2013 so that the EU ETS as a whole remains the cornerstone of EU climate and energy policy,'' their letter says.

Rhian Kelly told EurActiv that she was surprised by how much commonality there was between the CBI's positioning and that of BusinessEurope. ''I don't think we're as diametrically opposed as people would suggest,'' she said.

However, asked if the CBI was satisfied that its climate position was being adequately represented by BusinessEurope in Brussels, Kelly paused for several seconds. ''No comment,'' she finally said.

EU dismisses Polish warnings over carbon market fix.

Link to Article

Source: WT news feed

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 11:09

According to the Polish document, obtained by EurActiv, Warsaw stands to lose over a billion euros and 16% of its allowance revenues, under the proposed backload plan, put forward by Brussels last month to shore up Europe's battered carbon market.

Hungary would forego '≠¬189 million and almost a quarter of its revenues, while the Czech Republic would lose '≠¬375 million and 13.6% of its revenues, according to the analysis by Poland, which opposes the EU plan.

Warsaw says that the numbers are an aggregate of figures from Annex 6 of the impact assessment accompanying the European Commission's carbon market reform proposal.

The analysis has been sent to all new EU member states - mostly from eastern Europe but also including Cyprus - in advance of an EU environment ministers council on 17 December.

But the Commission's reaction was dismissive.

''I don't know where their numbers come from,'' Isaac Valero-Ladr"n, spokesman for Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, told EurActiv in an emailed statement. ''Backloading is expected to deliver positive fiscal impacts for Member States in times of austerity.''

A Commission 'Fiscal impacts of backloading' analysis, seen by EurActiv and sent to all 27 EU states last week, projects an increase in the carbon price from '≠¬10 in 2013 to '≠¬12 in 2015 as a result of backloading '' compared to a steady '≠¬5 price without the measure.

The higher the carbon price goes, the higher the incentive for industries to invest in less polluting technologies, which was Europe's ultimate objective when it launched its carbon market to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Overall, the Commission estimates that between 2013 and 2015 member states auctioning revenues would increase by 59% with backloading.

No Polish sources approached by EurActiv would go on the record to contest this.

10c derogation

But off the record, officials insisted that the '10c derogation' that Poland and other mostly East European states are pursuing to reserve free allocation of carbon allowances for their power sector would now end up draining their pool of auctionable credits.

''We would like to bring to the Council's attention the fact that backloading might not actually be beneficial to countries with 10c arrangements,'' one Polish government source told EurActiv.

Poland's 10c allowances were partly scaled back by the EU, following revelations by EurActiv that some of the power plants it had claimed allowances for did not exist.

But the country still plans to allocate over 404 million free allowances to its mostly coal-based power sector. The rest of the new EU member states are together allocating 267 million 10c allowances to their power plants.

Commission sources say that while revenues for Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania would still increase, albeit more slowly than without backloading, Poland would see a slight fall.

Languishing allowances

Carbon allowance prices are currently languishing at around '≠¬6 a tonne, way below the levels needed to encourage low carbon investment, or propel the EU towards its decarbonisation target for 2050.

Warsaw argues that this does not matter as the EU should still meet its 2020 target for a 20% cut in emissions on 1990 levels, even if carbon prices fall to near zero. However, an EU consensus rejects this as obstructive, environmentally crass, and economically naÝve.

On 9 December, Hans ten Berge, secretary-general of Eurelectric, Europe's electricity industry association, said the electricity market was currently ''uninvestable'' because of market fragmentation and a poorly functioning ETS.

"I'm not green,'' he continued, ''I'm just rational. I'm thinking that we have got a serious problem with CO2 in the world. I want to make as much money as possible," he told Reuters.

"The carbon price should rise over time from the current level to a magnitude around '≠¬100," ten Berge added. The former UN secretary-general Yvo de Boer last week told EurActiv that a carbon price of '≠¬150 a tonne would be needed to avoid runaway global warming.

The idea behind backloading is to modestly increase that price on pollution by creating a temporary market scarcity - which the Commission retains the option of making permanent - thus providing enough uncertainty about future demand to boost prices.

''If there is a consensus, or a quasi-consensus that we should go fast, then we have a solution, which is the permanent cancellation of allowances,'' the EU's chief climate civil servant Jos Delbeke said on 16 November. ''That is presented as something that still could be done say in the coming 20-24 months.''

Permanent setasides

Sources in Warsaw have confirmed that, despite compiling figures which assume a carbon price collapse after 2015 and no permanent cancellation '' or set-aside - of allowances, the Polish government views the latter measure as an inevitable follow-through.

''The whole idea of backloading is just an 'introduction,''' one source said.

The data analysis by Kobize, the Polish government's National Centre for Emissions Management, was conducted on the assumption that backloading would be ''no good'' for the country's economy, other sources in Warsaw confirmed.

''The intent was to calculate results and the result was that it would hurt Poland,'' one official said, tongue-in-cheek.

Environmentalists retort that only one market projection for 900 million backloads in the EU annex that Poland says it based its figures to 2020 on, actually goes through to 2020 - and that only showed a slight price decline.

''Poland is desperately trying to create a split between East and West, but after misusing its self-proclaimed role as defender of the interests of Central and Eastern European member states already quite a few times, its credibility on climate policies with other EU governments is decreasing,'' Greenpeace spokesman Joris den Blanken told EurActiv.

Russian winter kills 20 in Europe - English pravda.ru

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:48

Siberian cold has hit Eastern Europe. According to recent reports, the cold has already killed 20 people.

The largest number of victims is in Switzerland, where on Sunday 11 people were buried under a layer of snow from an avalanche, the Russian News Service reports. Two other tourists were injured. In addition, four people were killed in Croatia, two - in Serbia. Seven people froze to death in the Czech Republic. Most victims are mostly homeless people, who have no place to take shelter in cold weather, Vesti.ru reports.

Montenegro has not seen such a snowfall in 60 years. According to Ecology and Life, snow has virtually closed the capital of the country, Podgorica. Airports in Montenegro are closed too. The Danube River - one of the key waterways of Europe - has frozen.

Bad weather has left many people in Germany without electricity. In Italy, snow blizzards destroyed vegetables and fruits. According to farmers, they will lose about 100 tons of their products.

Snowfalls have paralyzed air and rail traffic in the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. UK airports stopped working as well. KLM and Air France have canceled several flights to Paris and Amsterdam.

The ruthless march of the Russian winter will reach Italy by the middle of the week, adds Gismeteo. Temperatures will drop down to -20 degrees Centigrade in the Alps and in the Balkans.

Science!!!

Scientists May Have Finally Unlocked Puzzle of Why People Are Gay - US News and World Report

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:46

Has the riddle of human sexuality finally been cracked? A few scientists think so.

Scientists may have finally solved the puzzle of what makes a person gay, and how it is passed from parents to their children.

A group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuals get that trait from their opposite-sex parents: A lesbian will almost always get the trait from her father, while a gay man will get the trait from his mother.

[PHOTOS: Couples Queue for Midnight Marriage Licenses]

The hereditary link of homosexuality has long been established, but scientists knew it was not a strictly genetic link, because there are many pairs of identical twins who have differing sexualities. Scientists from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis say homosexuality seems to have an epigenetic, not a genetic link.

Long thought to have some sort of hereditary link, a group of scientists suggested Tuesday that homosexuality is linked to epi-marks '-- extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. These epi-marks are usually, but not always, "erased" between generations. In homosexuals, these epi-marks aren't erased '-- they're passed from father-to-daughter or mother-to-son, explains William Rice, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and lead author of the study.

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons About Gay Marriage]

"There is compelling evidence that epi-marks contribute to both the similarity and dissimilarity of family members, and can therefore feasibly contribute to the observed familial inheritance of homosexuality and its low concordance between [identical] twins," Rice notes.

Rice and his team created a mathematical model that explains why homosexuality is passed through epi-marks, not genetics. Evolutionarily speaking, if homosexuality was solely a genetic trait, scientists would expect the trait to eventually disappear because homosexuals wouldn't be expected to reproduce. But because these epi-marks provide an evolutionary advantage for the parents of homosexuals: They protect fathers of homosexuals from underexposure to testosterone and mothers of homosexuals from overexposure to testosterone while they are in gestation.

[DEBATE: Should Gay Marriage Be Legal Nationwide?]

"These epi-marks protect fathers and mothers from excess or underexposure to testosterone '-- when they carry over to opposite-sex offspring, it can cause the masculinization of females or the feminization of males," Rice says, which can lead to a child becoming gay. Rice notes that these markers are "highly variable" and that only strong epi-marks will result in a homosexual offspring.

Though scientists have long suspected some sort of genetic link, Rice says studies attempting to explain why people are gay have been few and far between.

[READ: Sen. Hatch Wants to Show Mormons Are Christians]

"Most mainstream biologists have shied away from studying it because of the social stigma," he says. "It's been swept under the rug, people are still stuck on this idea that it's unnatural. Well there are many examples of homosexuality in nature, it's very common." Homosexual behavior has been observed in black swans, penguins, sheep, and other animals, he says.

Rice's model still needs to be tested on real-life parent-offspring pairs, but he says this epigenetic link makes more sense than any other explanation, and that his team has mapped out a way for other scientists to test their work.

[RELATED: Supreme Court Will Hear Gay Marriage Cases]

"We've found a story that looks really good," he says. "There's more verification needed, but we point out how we can easily do epigenetic profiles genome-wide. We predict where the epi-marks occur, we just need other studies to look at it empirically. This can be tested and proven within six months. It's easy to test. If it's a bad idea, we can throw it away in short order."

More News:

Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at jkoebler@usnews.com.

Epigenetic - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary

War on Weed

Out There

Medvedev on Aliens

Medvedev did BIg interview with 5 journalists

Slammed Putin for always being late after he thought the show was over and mics were off

Then said:

I'm telling you guys for the last time, the president has a suitcase that not only holds the nuclear codes, but als a special map of the country with locations of aliens who have visited our contry and still reside here

He also receives regular reports about AALien activity, not unlike men in blackk

I wont comment on how many aliens are here on earth, as that could start widespread panic

BREAKING! US Official Says North Korea NOT In Control Of Satellite Launched Yesterday

Vaccine$

VIDEO-Doctors Save A Little Girl's Life By Reprogramming The HIV Virus To Fight Cancer Cells - Business Insider

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 09:04

Drug company Novartis is betting $20 million on a cancer treatment that seems to have saved a little girl's life, according to a report from The New York Times' Denise Grady.

Just last spring, six-year-old leukemia victim Emma Whitehead was "near death," having gone through chemotherapy twice without success.

But then her parents put Emma through an experimental treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

They infected her with a version of HIV, reprogrammed to attack cancer cells.

Whitehead almost died, but the treatment worked and now she's in remission '-- and doing cartwheels all over her house.

Grady says the treatment hasn't worked for all patients.

It worked completely on three adults. Four treated adults have merely improved. A child relapsed. The treatment failed two adults completely.

Here's the thing though: Each of these patients was a "hopeless" case before trying the treatment. So any success is huge.

Emma in April:

Emma now:

Here's a video from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

Grady's story has lots of quotes from optimistic doctors, as well as a detailed description of how the reprogrammed virus does its work >

Epidemiologist Confirms Serious Outbreak of Chicken Pox, 97 Percent Who Were Vaccinated

Link to Article

Source: Stuff Ain't Right Ś» Uncategorized

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:23

~~One unvaccinated child caused 97 percent of the vaccinated children to get chickenpox??? Is this supposed to get people to get their kids vaccinated or to NOT???? WTF??~~

A county in the western part of Indiana is the site of the nation's largest current chickenpox outbreak, according to news reports. An epidemiologist has confirmed that out of the cases analyzed, 97 percent of the children were vaccinated.

Vigo County has now seen over 84 cases of the varicella-zoster virus (chicken pox) '-- marked by itchy blisters on the body, fever, stomach ache and headache '-- since September and the count is currently well over 100.

''Vigo County usually has less than 10 cases a year; however, since the end of September, Vigo County has reported 84 cases which would meet the definition of an unusual occurrence of disease,'' Dr. Joan Duwve, M.D., of the Indiana State Department of Health, told the Tribune-Star. ''Prompt identification, investigation and control of chickenpox outbreaks are important. Even mild cases can be contagious.''

To cover-up the wild increase for the disease, public health officials are blaming one unvaccinated child as the cause despite 97 percent of vaccinated children contracting chicken pox. More than 85 percent of those vaccinated received FULL VACCINATIONS.

The Indiana Coalition for Vaccination Choice reported on their Facebook page:

Placed another call to the Indiana State Department of Health. Was able to reach the epidemiologist working the chicken pox outbreak. There are a total of 92 cases so far. Only 3 were never vaccinated. 10 had received one vaccine and 79 were fully vaccinated. They are seeing fewer lesions in the fully vaccinated. Zero deaths. Possibly one hospitalization but not sure off the top of their head. Zero complications from chicken pox. We were told that only one chicken pox vaccine was supposed to provide lifelong immunity but this did not turn out to be the case. A booster was added and yet we are seeing a very high rate of fully vaccinated children contracting chicken pox. We asked if another booster will be mandated and told possibly. We asked about vaccine failures and were told this is not vaccine failure because the severity of lesions in the fully vaccinated was less than if never vaccinated and that no vaccine is 100% effective. We were told that if vaccines save one life they are worth it. We asked how many children died from chicken pox before the vaccine. This epidemiologist was unsure.

It's just another example how vaccines fail the population. Why would any person agree to an injection of harmful chemicals for a claimed preventive measure that DOES NOT EVEN WORK?

via Epidemiologist Confirms Serious Outbreak of Chicken Pox, 97 Percent Who Were Vaccinated '' Waking Times : Waking Times.

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Brooke Mueller 'in rehab for 19th time after overdosing on ADHD drug Adderall' | Mail Online

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:51

Actress voluntarily checks into facilitySpokesman refuses to commentBut lawyer admits Mueller doesn't like the way Adderall makes her feelBy Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 21:14 EST, 10 December 2012 | UPDATED: 00:20 EST, 11 December 2012

Brooke Mueller is said to have entered rehab due to addiction issues with prescription medication.

The ex-wife of Charlie Sheen is apparently hooked on Adderall - a powerful psycho-stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It makes it the 19th time the reality star and actress has checked into rehab, according to TMZ.

A spokesman for 35-year-old Mueller - who was rushed to hospital on Friday after reportedly overdosing on the drug - declined to comment to MailOnline about her rehabilitation.

TMZ reports Mueller was admitted to a facility on Monday night for an 'undetermined period of time'.

More trouble: Brooke, pictured on Thursday evening, is said to have entered rehab on Monday night following an apparent overdose on Adderall last week

Her lawyer, Yale Galanter, is quoted by the website as saying: 'Brooke was uncomfortable with the way Adderall was making her behave.'

He insisted she had no illegal drugs in her system when she overdosed last week.

The former wife of Charlie Sheen - who has twins Bob and Max, three, with the Anger Management star - was taken from her home in Tarzana, Los Angeles to a nearby hospital on Friday morning after being found unconscious.

According to gossip website TMZ, a very low amount of alcohol was also present in her system when she was tested.

Mueller, who pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession back in May, is not allowed to drink alcohol under the terms of her one-year probation.

But her attorney added that the low level is very unlikely to constitute a probation violation.

Safe with the nanny: Brooke Mueller's twin sons Bob and Max, whom she shares with ex-husband Charlie Sheen, were under the care of their nanny when Mueller was rushed to hospital on Friday morning

He said: 'Brooke continues her lifelong battle with drug addiction by taking these steps herself to prevent a further drug relapse.'

After being discharged from hospital last week, Brooke is said to have told friends she took more than the prescribed dose of her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication (Adderall).

Mueller's publicist spoke out at the time of the incident, insisting no drugs were involved, despite initial reports over an overdose.

Steve Honig said in a statement that Brooke was mistakenly believed to be unresponsive while sleeping, telling MailOnline: 'An assistant thought Brooke was non-responsive while she was napping and hastily called an ambulance.

Rocky relationship: Brooke has dabbled in acting and real estate but is best-known for her marriage to Charlie. Here they are seen together in September 2009

'As a precaution, Brooke was brought to a local hospital and discharged after an hour. She was diagnosed with exhaustion and dehydration and is now fine and resting at home. That's it.'

In June, Charlie, 47, urged 35-year-old Brooke to check herself into rehab after he became concerned about her when she reportedly appeared 'out of it' during a visit to his home.

A source close to Brooke said at the time, she 'partied for four days straight ... and ultimately fell off the wagon'.

The insider added: 'Brooke's family is hoping that she finally understands the consequences of her actions. That is, she risks losing all of her rights to the children if she doesn't get clean - once and for all.'

University Of Washington Researchers Develop Dissolving Condom

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 19:49

University of Washington researchers have developed a dissolving condom. (DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) '' A new, discreet condom has been developed that prevents pregnancy and protects against sexually transmitted diseases by dissolving inside of the body and releasing preventative drugs after use.

Researchers at the University of Washington developed the condom from tiny microfibers where strength, solubility and shape can all be adjusted for best personal use. Published in the Public Library of Science's ''PLoS One'' journal, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the researchers nearly $1 million to pursue the new ''electrospinning'' technology.

The ''electrospinning'' method uses an electric field to charge fluid through air to create the very fine, nanometer-sized fibers.

''Our dream is to create a product women can use to protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancy,'' wrote corresponding author Kim Woodrow, a UW assistant professor of bioengineering. ''We have the drugs to do that. It's really about delivering them in a way that makes them more potent, and allows a woman to want to use it.''

''Electrospinning'' has existed for decades, but it's only recently been automated to make it practical for applications such as filtration and tissue engineering. This is the first study to use nanofibers for vaginal drug delivery, wrote the researchers.

The versatility of the fibers allows many more effective options of delivering medicines and supplements than current technology. Gels, tablets and pills aren't able to incorporate components such as proteins and antibodies that can assist women in prolonged protection against STD's and unwanted pregnancy.

At a meeting last year, Woodrow presented the concept, and co-authors Emily Krogstad and Cameron Ball, both first-year graduate students, agreed to pursue the project.

''This method allows controlled release of multiple compounds,'' Ball wrote in a Washington press release. ''We were able to tune the fibers to have different release properties.''

One of the fabrics dissolves within minutes, potentially offering users immediate and discrete protection. Another fabric dissolves gradually over a few days, providing an option for sustained delivery, similar to the birth-control pill, to provide contraception and protect against HIV.

The researchers agreed that this technology is more discrete, but that there is never a single answer to whether or not this form of contraception will be adopted by for use.

''At the time of sex, are people going to actually use it? That's where having multiple options really comes into play,'' Krogstad told the University of Washington in a press release. ''Depending on cultural background and personal preferences, certain populations may differ in terms of what form of technology makes the most sense for them.''

VIDEO

'Kate schuldig aan zelfmoord'

Link to Article

Source: Telegraaf.nl - prive

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 10:41

do 13 dec 2012, 10:54

van onze redactieAMSTERDAM - VIDEO - De altijd controversile popzanger Morrissey (53) heeft naar aanleiding van de zelfmoord van de Britse verpleegster Jacintha Saldanha keihard uitgehaald naar de Britse Royals. Met name Kate Middleton (30) moet het ontgelden.

Morrissey, een zelfverklaard antimonarchist, legt de zere vinger bij de 'arrogante' Britse royals. De 53-jarige Britse zanger is van mening dat de Koninklijke familie te veel druk op de verpleegster heeft uitgeoefend na de misgelopen radiograp van twee Australische radio-dj's, die als 'zondebokken' gebruikt worden.

Op de Nieuw-Zeelandse zender 3 News zegt hij het volgende: ''Kate maalt helemaal niet om de dood van die verpleegster. Daarnaast schaamt ze zich ook totaal niet voor wat er gebeurd is. Ze zegt niks over de zelfmoord van die arme verpleegster.''

Morrissey vraagt zich ook af wat Kate in beginsel in het ziekenhuis deed. ''Volgens mijn inschatting was ze in het ziekenhuis zonder enige reden. Heeft ze een medisch probleem? Ik bedoel maar te zeggen: nu al misselijk? Daar was veel daarover te doen, maar na de dood van die vrouw wandelde ze okselfris het ziekenhuis weer uit. Dat is toch niet meer geloofwaardig!"

Verpleegster Jacintha Saldanha raakte vorige week betrokken bij een grap van de radiozender. Twee dj's deden zich in een telefoongesprek voor als koningin Elizabeth II en kroonprins Charles en probeerden zo de zwangere Kate Middleton aan de lijn te krijgen. Die lag in het ziekenhuis wegens zwangerschapsmisselijkheid. De verpleegster trapte in de grap en verbond de dj's door met de zuster die Kate behandelde. Drie dagen na het telefoontje werd de verpleegkundige dood gevonden in haar woning.

(C) 1996-2012 Telegraaf Media Nederland | Landelijke Media B.V., Amsterdam.Alle rechten voorbehouden.e-mail: redactie-i@telegraaf.nlPrivacy | Cookies | Disclaimer

VIDEO-Deputy Secretary Burns Invites Syrian Opposition Leadership to Washington

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 10:30

(Reuters soundbites from press conference following meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People)Today the United States has taken an important step forward. We now recognize the Syrian Opposition Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We have extended an invitation to Mouaz al-Khatib and the coalition leadership to visit Washington at their earliest opportunity. We have been intensively engaged with special envoy [Lakhdar] Brahimi, our Russian counterparts, and other partners to assist him in his efforts to bring about a real political transition, as outlined in the Geneva communique.

The step that we took with regard to the designation of the al-Nusra Front raises an alarm about a very different kind of future for Syria, about the direction that a group, in this case al-Nusra, would try to take Syria, to impose its will and to try to threaten the social fabric of Syria.

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UKIP Nigel Farage - EU leaders are like drug addicts

VIDEO-Hillary Clinton Reveals Thoughts on Being Secretary of State, 2016, and Her Hair - ABC News

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 08:21

When Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down from her post as secretary of state as expected early next year her political career will have spanned over two decades. ABC's Barbara Walters sat down with the secretary to discuss just what makes the secretary so fascinating to so many people around the world, and what the cultural and political icon finds fascinating herself.

Clinton is by far the most popular official in the Obama administration, and is already the leading candidate should she choose to run for president again in 2016. So is this really goodbye for the former first lady, senator and secretary of state? Or will Hillary Clinton, who recently turned 65 years old, re-invent herself once again?

Clinton said that while "all doors are open" for her future, one thing is for certain: She is definitely leaving the cabinet as soon as a new secretary is sworn in and a smooth transition occurs.

Hillary Clinton Announces Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Watch Video'This Week' Roundtable: Hillary Clinton in 2016? Watch VideoBoy, 4, Accidently Shoots Himself in the Head Watch Video"It sounds so simple, but I've been, as you know, at the highest levels of American and now international activities for twenty years, and I just thought it was time to take a step off'... maybe do some reading and writing and speaking and teaching," said Clinton.

She told Walters that she doesn't have a plan for what she'll do immediately after leaving political life but that she wants to continue contributing to society in some way, perhaps in philanthropy or academia. But when pressed on whether that her future includes a widely-speculated 2016 run for president, Clinton maintains that she still does not plan to run.

PHOTOS: Hillary Clinton Through the Years

"I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again," she said. "I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before."

When pressed, however, the secretary does admit that if she did choose to run she would not be concerned about her age. Recently having turned 65, Clinton would be 77 years old if she were to be in office for two terms.

"I am, thankfully, knock on wood, not only healthy, but have incredible stamina and energy," she said. "I just want to see what else is out there. I've been doing, you know, this, this incredibly important and, and satisfying work here in Washington, as I say, for twenty years, I want to get out and spend some time looking at what else I can do to contribute."

VIDEO-Pelosi Accuses GOP Of Lack Of Concern For Kwanzaa

Link to Article

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 07:07

Pelosi Accuses GOP Of Lack Of Concern For Kwanzaa

VIDEO-HSBC: Preferred Bank Of Drug Cartels & Money Launderers - Home - The Daily Bail

Link to Article

Wed, 12 Dec 2012 08:24

Why no criminal charges in HSBC case?

Excellent report from tonight's CBS national news broadcast.

---

(CBS News) As bank slogans go, they don't come worse than this: "The preferred financial institution of drug cartels and money launderers."

That's a quote Tuesday in a U.S. Department of Justice report about HSBC Holdings, one of the largest banks in the world. To avoid criminal prosecution, HSBC admitted Tuesday that it laundered more than $800 million for Mexican drug cartels, and covered up illegal transactions for Burma, Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Libya.

The British bank will pay $1.9 billion to the U.S. government, the largest such fine in history.

It's a case that has everything -- everything accept an arrest. That struck some as odd, because in 80 pages of court documents, the bank admits to almost going out of its way to act as a financial clearing house for international pariahs and drug dealers.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said: "HSBC is paying a heavy price for its conduct, and under the terms of today's agreement, if the bank fails to comply with the agreement in any way, any way at all, we reserve the right as the government to fully prosecute it."

Under the terms of Tuesday's settlement, nobody at HSBC will face criminal charges.

Notre Dame professor Jimmy Gurule, who investigated money-laundering cases for the Treasury Department, said: "We're not talking about mere negligence. We're talking about a criminal scheme that was adopted as a policy of HSBC that involved looking the other way in regard to suspicious transactions involving money laundering."

Some would say that the message is, if you break all the laws you can, until you get caught, you may have to pay a lot of money, but you're not gonna go to jail.

U.S Attorney Lynch, who is one of the architects of Tuesday's settlement, disputed that idea, and said: "That's a very short-sighted view, I think, because in this case they're obviously paying a great deal of money, but they also have to literally had to turn their company inside out. And the message should be that that's what you have to do."

As for the lack of criminal prosecutions, the feds said that they never found one bank official, or any collection of bank officials acting together, that were doing this on purpose. They painted a picture of a disorganized bank that was collecting all these fees either not knowing, or not wanting to know where it all came from.

VIDEO-Depardieu seeks tax exile in Belgium | euronews, world news

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 08:54

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti appeared calm among other European leaders who were in Norway receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. With the financial markets rattled over his surprise early resignation, he refused to show any alarm. Instead he played down fears that Italy'...

VIDEO-Hillary Clinton: Iran 'Exports Terrorism' to Mexico | CNS News

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 08:59

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) '' Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Iran ''exports terrorism'' in a global fashion that ''stretches from Mexico to Thailand.

''We already know very well that the Iranian regime already exports terrorism, not only to Israel's doorstep, but across the world,'' Clinton said. ''If we had a map I could put up there, I could show you what we track and plot on that map.

''The evidence of terrorism, mostly, thankfully, plots foiled or unsuccessful, unfortunately, as in Bulgaria, some that succeeded,'' Clinton said. ''But those plots, those activities of Iran directly or through their agents, stretches from Mexico to Thailand.''

Clinton said that the United States and other nations around the world should put a stop to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

''America, Israel and the entire international community must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,'' Clinton said, adding that President Barack Obama has made a ''commitment'' to that goal.

''This year's forum followed closely after the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, as well U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's mission to the region last week and President Abbas' upcoming bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations,'' the center's website states.

Overweight Children More Likely To Use Marijuana! DUN! DUN! DUN!

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BREAKING! US Official Says North Korea NOT In Control Of Satellite Launched Yesterday

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Daily Press Briefing - December 10, 2012

Link to Article

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 05:21

1:13 p.m. EST

MS. NULAND: All right. Happy Monday, everyone. I am sorry we are so late. We had a lot of issues to wrestle today. First, let me give a shout-out to the State Department interns in the back of the room. Welcome. We are so happy to have you with us. And also just to remind everybody that it is International Human Rights Day. The Secretary has done a statement today, which you'll have. And as you know, she gave a speech on human rights last week in Dublin. Let's go to what's on your minds, after we turn off Arshad's phone there, or whatever the heck that is.

QUESTION: It's my tape recorder, actually.

MS. NULAND: Your tape recorder?

QUESTION: I think it's our Secretary's voice I was listening to there.

MS. NULAND: Excellent. Should we all pause and listen to her voice, or shall we --

QUESTION: I'm going to proceed.

MS. NULAND: All right.

QUESTION: Let's '' I only have one thing and it's very brief. I just want to know if there's anything you can tell us about Bill Burns' '' Deputy Secretary Burns' meeting yesterday and '' was it yesterday or Saturday? Oh, whatever. Over the weekend in Geneva with the Russians on Syria.

MS. NULAND: Let's just go to Syria then. We did put out a few lines on the meeting between UN Special Envoy Brahimi, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Bogdanov, hereafter known as the ''triple B'' meeting. Just to say that, as the Secretary made clear after her meeting with Mr. Brahimi and Foreign Minister Lavrov last week in Dublin, we are committed to helping Special Envoy Brahimi see what he can do to support and advance a Syrian-led political transition process.

So the two deputies met with Mr. Brahimi yesterday to hear his ideas and to declare our support for the process. I would say that that was a preliminary meeting. We expect there'll be more such meetings as Mr. Brahimi fleshes out his plan. I don't have any particular details to announce at this point, but we expect that he will be making efforts to work towards the kind of transition outlined in Geneva, particularly the democratic principles undergirding it.

QUESTION: Well, was there any kind agreement reached on at least an outline? Or did the B's just bumble?

MS. NULAND: The B's had a chance to hear some preliminary ideas from Mr. Brahimi, but I think we're going to have to keep talking.

QUESTION: But you said, ''More such meetings.'' Did you mean to say more such meetings at that level with the Deputy Secretary?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: And any idea when that might be? I mean, you don't have that much time between now and Marrakesh, and presumably you're trying to get something done between now and then, n'est-ce pas?

MS. NULAND: I think you should look at this process of Mr. Brahimi trying to work on implementing a transition as something that is running in parallel with the Marrakesh process, which, as you know, is where we'll have a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People, and we'll have a chance to see the Syrian Opposition Council members. So the Marrakesh meeting is very much about the international community supporting the Syrian Opposition Council, hearing their views, moving forward, and talking to them about how they see the transition moving forward, even as Special Envoy Brahimi works with them and works with other stakeholders in Syria to see if he can get a transition going. So the two things are two pieces of a multifaceted approach, but it's not a matter of having something to deliver to Marrakesh.

QUESTION: The Russians aren't even coming to Marrakesh, correct?

MS. NULAND: The Russians do not participate in the Friends of the Syrian people. They have been invited; they have chosen not to participate.

Jill.

QUESTION: Speaking of the Russians, Mr. '' Minister Lavrov sounds furious. He is saying that, essentially, a certain country '' probably the United States, I would think '' is trying to lead this down the road of Libya, and any type of statement about Assad leaving will not happen. Now this would appear to be a non-starter. If he is saying nothing about any type of demand that Assad leave, and the United States has said that they '' that it totally believes that he has to leave, doesn't that mean that this is doomed?

MS. NULAND: I haven't seen what Foreign Minister Lavrov has said that you are reporting here, Jill. I don't know if he spoke again today. Secretary was very clear again when we were in Belfast on Friday that we don't see any transition process that includes Assad. This is not a new position for us. The President has said that he needs to go for a year. Frankly, we don't see the Syrian opposition making common cause with a guy who's responsible for the kind of bloodshed that he's responsible for.

So the question with regard to the Brahimi process is whether, in the context of the outline that the entire P5, including the Russians, agreed to back in June in Geneva, there are players who could come together from the opposition. Perhaps there are folks who are currently in the government without blood on their hands who could support those kinds of democratic principles and form the basis of a transitional structure going forward. Mr. Brahimi thinks it is worth a try. We want to support his efforts, and we'll have to see where that goes.

QUESTION: Victoria, but you talk about the Brahimi process. Mr. Brahimi has been on the job for four or five months now. How much progress has he made? Where are we now from where he began?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, he's done a number of trips to the region. He's taken soundings with various stakeholders. He came to Secretary Clinton; he went to Foreign Minister Lavrov, said I want to make another push to see whether Geneva is implementable, and I need your support. And it's on that basis that, obviously, the Secretary agreed to try to help if we can. So we'll see what this push brings.

But it doesn't replace all of the other things that we are doing, which you will see in Marrakesh, including, notably, trying to strengthen the opposition in coming up with its own plan, in working on its own connectivity between external opposition, internal opposition, effectiveness of their political operation, even as more areas are liberated from the regime, et cetera. So they will have their own plan, and we will be encouraging them in that regard as well.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. A couple weeks ago he came out of the UN, after the closed session with the Security Council, and basically said that he doesn't even have a plan, he wouldn't call that he has a plan. So how far along has he '' what kind of progress has he made towards suggesting a plan?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we took it when the Secretary saw him in Dublin, he sees a lot of merit in the democratic framework for a transition that the Security Council members and other neighbors of Syria came up with in Geneva back in June. The question is whether he can get Syrians to rally around it. We obviously support efforts that he's making to try. We'll have to see where it goes. But as the Secretary said in Belfast, this is a renewed push, but we don't have anything yet and nobody should be sanguine about whether this is going to be easy or whether this is going to be quick.

Jill.

QUESTION: So where do we stand now on the opposition, recognizing the opposition?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we have, as the Secretary said, been looking at ways that we can deepen and broaden our support. We will be in Marrakesh on Wednesday '' the Secretary will be '' for the Friends of the Syrian People. I think we want to talk there about more support that we can give them along the lines of what she foreshadowed last week, but I don't want to get ahead of announcements that we might make.

I think, among other things, she'll want to meet with them, she'll want to hear from them both in her own meeting and in the broader meeting about how they see things going forward, both in terms of their own internal organization, about their connectivity with Syrians inside Syria, about their transitional planning, about the needs that they see for external support, how they would have us best direct the nonlethal support and humanitarian support that we are providing. So she'll want to hear about all of those things. But she's been clear that we'd like to offer them more support, and I think you'll see some of that at Marrakesh on Wednesday.

QUESTION: Do you have that worked out who '' with whom she would meet?

MS. NULAND: We're working on an appropriate list of leaders from the SOC, but I don't have anything to announce today, Jill.

QUESTION: And just one other question. I'm interested in recognition and what it means legally, if the United States were to. I'm not saying you '' I know you hate hypotheticals, but there must be legal ramifications to this. If you say that you're recognizing them as representatives of the Syrian people, what does that mean legally? Do you still talk with the existing government of Assad?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, you're getting me ahead of where we are, Jill. If we make an advance in the next coming days or so, we'll be prepared to explain any implications of that. What I would do is remind you of how this went in the Libyan context where we were able to take progressive steps, as the Libyan opposition themselves took steps, to work with them and to advance the way we dealt with them politically.

QUESTION: So that, I mean, it would work with diplomatic mission? For instance, you would take the embassy, the Syrian Embassy, and say now, at this point, the opposition, they can go and occupy it?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to foreshadow decisions that we haven't made yet and haven't announced yet, but just to remind you that in the Libyan case, both with regard to how we dealt with the leadership of the opposition and also with regard to the physical status in Washington and beyond, it was an iterative process; there were a number of steps along the road.

QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: Was there any '' in the Libyan example though, was there anything that happened immediately after that meeting in Istanbul? Wasn't that the key that unlocked the process for the '' for them to get some of the assets that had been frozen?

MS. NULAND: I can't recall exactly what happened when on Libya. We can go back and look at all of those things. There were different steps that needed to be taken in order to unlock the assets. In the Syrian case, obviously we're not holding regime assets here, so that is not '' doesn't pertain, so --

QUESTION: Well '' no, I know. That's why I'm asking about Libya, not about Syria.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: But I mean, didn't you have to recognize them first before that process before the assets --

MS. NULAND: There were steps that had to be taken. I can't remember at what stage in the process, as compared to where we are now in Syria, where that unlocked. We can go back and look at that, Matt.

QUESTION: Are we getting closer with the Russia regarding the implementation of Geneva statement?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think the question here is whether, having agreed on the democratic principles that have to undergird any kind of a transition, having agreed on what we want a future Syria to look like in the Geneva statement, namely that it has to unified, it has to be pluralistic, it has to be democratic, it has to protect the rights of all Syrians no matter where they come from, can we now get a process going to move past the back-and-forth that we had in June and encourage Syrians of all stripes to rally around the idea of forming a transitional structure? And that's something that UN Special Envoy Brahimi wants to try, and we'll see how he does.

Please. Can you tell me who you are? Still on Syria?

QUESTION: Just '' yes.

MS. NULAND: Okay.

QUESTION: Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News. Has the U.S. in any way facilitated the movement of weapons out of Libya to arm Syrian rebels?

MS. NULAND: No.

QUESTION: Okay --

QUESTION: There was a report yesterday in the Sunday Times --

MS. NULAND: It was a false report.

QUESTION: It's a false report. Okay.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. given tacit approval for the Qataris and Saudis to arm the rebels?

MS. NULAND: We've talked about this before. You know where we are in U.S. policy, that we are providing nonlethal assistance. Other countries are making other choices. We are doing our best, both in the Friends of the Syrian People and in other formats, to try to stay well coordinated in terms of understanding who we are supporting so that we're supporting opposition forces that favor a democratic, unitary, pluralistic Syria and not having any of our support fall into the hands of extremists. So we're obviously trying to be coordinated. That would be what I would have to say on that subject.

QUESTION: Just to put '' draw a fine point on this story that appeared yesterday in the Sunday Times, has the Administration made a decision to change its policy and to begin to arm the Syrian rebels?

MS. NULAND: We have not changed our policy.

QUESTION: The fact that a new military command has been formed and so on does not persuade you to go ahead and arm the opposition that now it has become solid and respectable and in command of what it does?

MS. NULAND: We are maintaining our current posture of providing nonlethal support and not going beyond that.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to label the Al-Nusra Front a terrorist organization in Syria because of its ties to al-Qaida in Iraq?

MS. NULAND: Well, you've probably seen a pre-notification in the Federal Register. We will have more to say about this tomorrow in the coming days. What I would say is that I think you know that we've had concerns that Al-Nusra is little more than a front for al-Qaida in Iraq, who has moved some of its operations into Syria. This, again, goes to the environment that Assad and his regime have created with their violence, that they have, as we've been concerned about for many months, created an environment with this violence that extremists can now try to exploit. So that we do see al-Qaida in Iraq trying to make these inroads, but I don't have anything to announce with regard to legal steps of ours today.

QUESTION: And finally, is there any truth to some reports of chemical weapons being used inside Syria? There's some video footage this weekend on Al Arabiya.

MS. NULAND: That something has actually been used?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to confirm that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Still on Syria? Are we finished with Syria? Okay, moving there. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions on Venezuela and Colombia. The first one: Do you have any reactions on Chavez's travel to Cuba? And the second one is: Colombian magazine report that one of the people who led to the capture of Mono Jojoy, one of the guerilla leaders, claimed that the U.S. didn't pay the reward of $5,000 '' or $5 million, sorry. If you have any question '' any comments on that, too?

MS. NULAND: On the '' this was a Rewards for Justice program in Colombia which --

QUESTION: No. It is one person who lead to the capture and, after, killing of Mono Jojoy, one of the guerilla leaders. He claimed that the U.S. hasn't paid him the $5 million reward.

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything on that. We will check into that, and if I have anything we'll get back to you.

Going back to the Venezuela question, can you --

QUESTION: It is regarding President Chavez's travel to Cuba. You know, he's very ill. He's going to be operated or so. So I was wondering if you have any comments on the current political situation in Venezuela or on Chavez's health.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, with regard to his health we would refer you to the Venezuelan authorities. I think they've spoken about this pretty extensively.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian issue?

QUESTION: Can I just have a quick follow-up on that?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: While considering that this is his fourth surgery coming up and the fact that he has now named someone to act in his stead should he not be able to continue his duties, is that not a matter of interest for the U.S. Government?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we would want to see any succession follow the terms of the Venezuelan constitution. We're obviously watching events there carefully.

QUESTION: Do you wish him a speedy recovery?

MS. NULAND: As with anybody who is suffering what he is suffering, we do.

QUESTION: As always, always the case.

MS. NULAND: Anything else on this? No? Please. Can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Follow-up on '' I'm David Ivanovich with Argus Media. May I follow up on the Venezuelan question? There seems to be some concerns about the successor that Mr. Chavez is saying should be named if he were to die. Do you have any concerns about who he is naming as whether that really would be following the Venezuelan constitution or not?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just say it again. Should the president become permanently unavailable to serve, the Venezuelan constitution itself defines a succession policy. Should an election become constitutionally necessary, the expectation in the hemisphere, including our expectation and we assume the expectation of the Venezuelan people, would be that it be peaceful, that it be inclusive, that it be free and conducted on a level playing field, providing an opportunity for Venezuela to demonstrate its commitment to representative democracy.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you --

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

QUESTION: -- what is ''permanently unable to serve''? What does that mean? Does that mean dead?

MS. NULAND: If he --

QUESTION: What does that mean? A stroke or incapacitated or --

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that --

QUESTION: Is Fidel Castro permanently unable to serve?

MS. NULAND: -- under all constitutions, heads of state who conclude that they should no longer serve for whatever reason can take themselves out of the '' can resign, can retire, whatever they want to do. I'm not going to speculate, but --

QUESTION: But permanently unable '' that sounds like some kind of a Pentagon line, like terminate with extreme prejudice or something.

MS. NULAND: Well, as compared to what's been happening over this period, where he's been naming temporary implementers of his powers, as you know.

QUESTION: Gotcha. Okay.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because Mr. Hammer said last week that the U.S. is willing to, more than ready to, to exchange ambassadors with Venezuela, and he would like to reassume the dialogue. So in the frame of all the situation with President Chavez, do you see any chance or this is going to have any impact on U.S. willingness to continue to foster dialogue with Venezuela?

MS. NULAND: Well, I'm not going to speculate on hypothetical situations, as we try hard here not to do. We obviously want the best possible communications between our government and the Venezuelan Government on all issues of mutual interest, including but not limited to counternarcotics, counterterrorism, rule of law, commerce, et cetera. But we don't currently have any plans to reestablish relations at the ambassadorial level with Caracas.

Please.

QUESTION: While we're on Venezuela, please?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You talked about '' in a comment on a hypothetical situation, should it be necessary to have an election, you talked about the importance of it being conducted on a level playing field. Can you be a little more specific on whether you particularly '' by that you specifically mean media access for all candidates to major media, which I think has been one of the big issues in Venezuela in terms of whether people actually have access to coverage by major media?

MS. NULAND: Well, that would certainly be one litmus test of level playing field, as it is around the world. Yeah.

Okay. Said.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated today that he, in fact, called for the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel from the point where they were last and during the last negotiation session, and '' provided that all settlement activity be frozen for the time being. Do you support such a call, or is that '' you consider that to be conditional?

MS. NULAND: As the President has said all the way along, as the Secretary has said, we are prepared to be full partners in supporting negotiations if and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations. So it always takes two to tango, as we say. So '' and we've also called for both sides to come to the table without preconditions.

QUESTION: Do you consider it reasonable to call for resumption of negotiations from the point where they ended?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we support any scenario in which the parties can get back to direct talks, because it's going to be the only way to settle all of the longstanding issues between them. It's the only way to get to the two states living next to each other in peace that we all seek.

QUESTION: Is a construction moratorium a good way to get them back to the table?

MS. NULAND: Again, you know where we are on settlements, where we are on construction in Jerusalem. That hasn't changed. Mark spoke to this extensively last week. We want to avoid provocation by any side and get back to conditions for direct talks.

QUESTION: And have you taken any measures since last week, or have you taken any steps, to dissuade the Israelis from construction in the E1 area?

MS. NULAND: We've been very clear in public and in private about how we feel about E1. Mark spoke to it last week.

QUESTION: What about the tax transfer holdup? Has the U.S. done anything to try to help mediate that fallout from the UNGA vote?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we said at the time of the UNGA vote, we were concerned that this would have consequences, would imperil the relationship between them. That said, we favor support for the Palestinian Authority, support from all quarters, because this goes directly to the issue of maintaining quality of life for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Victoria, one last thing on the money that is being held up. Have you done anything to make sure that it is released and properly delivered to the Palestinians?

MS. NULAND: You're talking about on the U.S. side?

QUESTION: Right, yes, U.S. The U.S. money and --

MS. NULAND: We continue to work with Congress to make the case that continued U.S. support for the Palestinian people is in our national interest, is in the interest of the peace process. But again, there are a lot of views in the Congress, particularly in light of the move at the UN.

QUESTION: Just on this, there's a Quartet meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, envoy level. Do you expect anything substantial or significant to come out of this, or is this just kind of a stock-taking exercise in looking at how dismal the chances are to get the peace process started again?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think it's been a while since David Hale has met with his Quartet counterparts, so I think it's an opportunity to look at where we are and if and when we might be able to be in a position to get these parties back to the table, obviously, in light of all of the factors. So it's '' let's say that at this stage, it is gardening, but it is important gardening.

QUESTION: Gardening. You mean like weeding?

MS. NULAND: No, it's nurturing of the soil. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are they actually planting? Are they --

MS. NULAND: Nurturing of the soil.

QUESTION: Are they planting any seeds? (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: They're always trying to plant seeds, as you know.

QUESTION: There's more gardening? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Egypt, after the latest developments there, do you have any recommendations to President Morsi and the Egyptian people?

MS. NULAND: Well, Michel, I think you know that we have said all the way through here that we are deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in Egypt, that we are obviously seeing what you are seeing, that there are very strong opinions in Egypt about both the substance of the constitution and the process to get there. So '' but this is '' these are Egyptian decisions to make, how to move forward. What we want to see is a process that can garner the respect and the support of the broadest number of Egyptians. We want to see a constitution that, when it is adopted, respects and protects the rights of all Egyptians and the democratic trajectory of the country, but Egyptians are going to have to work through how they get from here to there.

QUESTION: A number of those in the opposition say that because of the way the constitution was drafted that it was dominated by Islamists, that it is inherently an unsound document, and thus, having the referendum on Saturday should not happen. What has the U.S. said to the Morsi government about the wisdom of proceeding on Saturday?

MS. NULAND: What we are saying is the same thing we've been saying all the way through, that these decisions have to be made by Egyptians, but they have to be made in a manner that can garner the broadest possible support. So we are not in the business of dictating this constitution on this date in this way. These decisions have to be made by dialogue. But clearly, we have still a lot of churn and a lot of ferment about both the process and the substance, and this needs to be worked through.

QUESTION: Does it help that there were concrete barriers erected around the presidential palace and that '' perhaps more significant '' that Morsi has given the army the order to arrest people who disturb the process of voting on Saturday? Does that not raise alarms in this building?

MS. NULAND: Well, on the question of stability and public order, our message here has also been consistent. We want to see those exercising their right of freedom of expression to do so peacefully, but we also want to see the Egyptian Government and security forces respecting that freedom of peaceful expression and assembly and to exercise restraint. So those are the '' that's sort of the frame in which we're watching how things go forward.

QUESTION: Is there any confidence that the Egyptian military will repeat its behavior of 18, 20 months ago when it refused to fire on protestors? Basically, they didn't want to take sides between Mubarak and the protestors.

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we want to see those protesting do so peacefully, and we want to see those who are charged with maintaining security do so in a manner that respects the human rights and respects freedom of expression, and to do so with restraint. So those are the messages that we're giving.

QUESTION: The flip side of Roz's question '' the flip side is that the military said that they will ensure that the referendum goes on smoothly. Are you concerned that they might actually impose something akin to martial law?

MS. NULAND: Again, the way this goes forward has to be worked out among Egyptians. But again, we want to see security forces respect the right of peaceful protest, exercise restraint, and of course, we don't want to see mistakes of the Mubarak era repeated.

QUESTION: Can I just make '' when you say peaceful protests, presumably you don't want to see people disrupting the polls, correct?

MS. NULAND: We want to see --

QUESTION: You don't want to see people interfering in the polls.

MS. NULAND: We are obviously not calling for that. We're calling for peaceful expression of views.

QUESTION: No, no, I '' right, right, but I think the question was '' the original question was that Morsi says that he's given the military orders to arrest people who disrupt the polls. Are you concerned about that? And my question is: Are you concerned about people disrupting the polls? And if they do disrupt the polls, shouldn't they be arrested?

MS. NULAND: Again, this whole situation in Egypt is very much evolving, changing on a daily basis. Our concern is that Egyptians make the decisions going forward and that the decisions be consensual, they be rooted in dialogue, and that they be peaceful on all sides, both on the side of those who are dissatisfied with the process and on the side of those charged with public security. So we all know what that looks like. It means exercising restraint on the government's side and it means exercising good judgment and nonviolence on the opposition side.

QUESTION: Right, but I guess the question is --

MS. NULAND: We're not going to get into the business of commenting on every back-and-forth here as they work through how they're going to get to this constitution. We want to see it managed in a way that the end product is a constitution that protects democracy, protects stability, and enforces and brings about a national consensus.

QUESTION: But you would not say that peaceful protest includes disrupting voting?

MS. NULAND: We would not.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Victoria, could you tell us if anyone from this building met with Essam el-Erian, the Deputy President of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is in town?

MS. NULAND: Apparently, he did not have any meetings here in the State Department.

QUESTION: So are you '' what is he doing in town? You're not aware of what he's doing or --

MS. NULAND: I think he was here to attend a conference, but ask him, Said. Frankly, I don't know.

QUESTION: Just to be clear about that, his question was whether anyone from this building met with him, not that '' whether he had meetings inside the building. So nobody from the building met with him, even if it was outside the building? They didn't go to the conference and chat with him there?

MS. NULAND: What I have is that we didn't see him.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else on this?

QUESTION: On Bahrain?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Posner is in Bahrain, and the Bahraini Crown Prince has called for a new dialogue with the opposition. And he's thanked several states that helped Bahrain, but he didn't mention the United States. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me first confirm what you had, Michel, that Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor Mike Posner has just completed a trip to Bahrain. He issued a long statement, which is on the Embassy's website if you want to see it. But to summarize, the United States welcomes the calls by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain for dialogue. And we also acknowledge that Al Wefaq has given a constructive response to that, as have other opposition groups, and have made clear their readiness to engage.

As you know, we have been calling for some time for the re-launch of real dialogue among the stakeholders. And we urge all sides to take this opening now and use it, and we want to see some concrete steps towards building confidence among the groups on real reform going forward.

QUESTION: Did you discuss '' when he thanked '' when the Crown Prince thanked several states that helped Bahrain during its crisis, he didn't mention the U.S. Do you have anything on this?

MS. NULAND: Well, we know the role that we have played with all stakeholders, trying to urge dialogue, trying to urge progress, so I don't think that that should be in any doubt one way or the other.

QUESTION: Did you feel snubbed? And that's the way it was reported over the weekend, that this was a deliberate, calculated snub to the United States. Do you regard it as such?

MS. NULAND: I think we '' obviously, as evidenced by the good visit that Mike Posner had and where we are now, that our relationship and our ability to work well with Bahrainis of all kinds shouldn't be in question.

QUESTION: Wait, wait a minute. Was his visit good? I mean, he is publicly quoted as saying that the Bahrainis should prosecute people who are behind violence. And it's '' I mean, he's been quite critical.

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, because this is part of what was in the BICI's set of recommendations that hasn't been implemented. I mean, among the roles that he has played in his regular trips to Bahrain is to call it like we see it in terms of where they have done well in implementing BICI recommendations and where work still needs to be done, and this is a place that we obviously need to see work. But one of the biggest obstacles to moving forward on any of it had been that the groups weren't talking to each other. So to have this renewed call for dialogue, which is welcomed on all sides, is a good step, and we hope it can open the way for more and complete, ultimately, implementation of the BICI recommendations.

QUESTION: But why was it a good visit? I mean, did he have anything to do with the Crown Prince expressing a willingness to re-launch dialogue and to Al Wefaq's apparently positive signals toward that? Because I read his visit as very critical. Maybe I've misunderstood it, but I don't see how it's easy to characterize it as good when you guys, if I'm not mistaken, take the view that they haven't properly implemented the BICI recommendations, for the most part, that many of the underlying issues between the Shia community and the authorities remain totally unresolved. And so I just don't understand why it's a good visit.

MS. NULAND: Again, from the perspective of all of this having to start with real dialogue about the reform that's needed among the groups, and having had many months where there was no dialogue at all, this having been the major subject of conversation when the Crown Prince was last here, et cetera, to see the Crown Prince now call for it, to see Wefaq and other groups say yes, we're ready, our hope is that everybody will take advantage of this now, they'll be able to really talk to each other, including about how to implement this unfinished business from the BICI, including prosecutions.

So the role that Assistant Secretary Posner has played in terms of the human rights dialogue that he's been having with Bahrain over the last two-plus years was key to the working through of the BICI recommendations in the first place, but also keeping a process going whereby we could get back to a real dialogue here today. So obviously, the proof will be in what that dialogue produces, but to have this kind of movement is better than where we were a week ago.

Said.

QUESTION: Victoria, this being Human Rights Day, do you think you have been treating the Bahraini Government with kid gloves, in fact, all your allies, as far '' when it comes to human rights abuses in the area, like Saudi Arabia, like Qatar and the other countries --

MS. NULAND: I think if you --

QUESTION: -- giving them, perhaps, a pass?

MS. NULAND: If you're concerned about that, read the statement that Assistant Secretary Posner released. As Arshad makes clear, there's '' there are no kid gloves involved in that statement.

Please.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: North Korea announced they postponed their launching missile yesterday, and then '' but they are still trying to launch missile within this year. What are you going to do to stop North Korea? And also, did you have any direct dialogue with North Korea in several days?

MS. NULAND: Well, we remain concerned that this is just a delay and that the DPRK still plans to launch a missile or a satellite or something that would be in violation of its international obligations, that fundamentally their plans are unchanged. As we've said before, any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology would be in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874. We again call on North Korea to refrain from a launch and to comply with its obligations.

We '' you'll remember that we have the UN Security Council presidential statement which was adopted in April of this year which strongly condemned their last launch and made clear that the Council was determined to take action if there is a further launch, and we stand by that.

With regard to direct contact, I think you know that we have channels to do that as necessary and we use them as necessary.

QUESTION: And also we got a statement '' press release last week about the dialogue with Chinese minister of the international issues, Wang Jiarui. He will be here until 12th and then '' did you have already that meeting with him?

MS. NULAND: You're talking about Wang Jiarui, the Minister of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's International Department.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. NULAND: And this comes up because of his frequent contacts with the North Koreans. Is that why it comes up now? Yeah. Our understanding is that he's going to '' he's visiting '' he's in the United States now. He's going to meet with Deputy Secretary Burns tomorrow, and we obviously look forward to hearing what he has to say. I would say in this connection that Secretary Clinton has been in direct touch with Foreign Minister Yang about exchanging views and concerns about the DPRK's launch, planned launch, as she has with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia.

Please.

QUESTION: Why do you think North Korea is still planning to launch a missile? Do you have any reason to believe they haven't canceled it?

MS. NULAND: As far as we can tell, this is simply a delay and that their plans are unchanged.

QUESTION: Did Secretary Clinton have a direct dialogue with Minister Yang?

MS. NULAND: Yes. On Friday while we were on our way home.

QUESTION: By phone?

MS. NULAND: Yes.

QUESTION: When did it happen?

MS. NULAND: Friday.

QUESTION: What did he '' did she talk about?

MS. NULAND: They talked about the DPRK and our concern about the launch.

QUESTION: Yeah, of course, but I'm sure she asked China to stop the North Korea.

MS. NULAND: Well, you know how closely we work with China on these issues. So they compared notes about what we're seeing and the question was what influence China could bring to bear on the DPRK to see reason and focus on the development of their country and the feeding of their people rather than on ballistic missile launches that are in violation of their international obligations.

QUESTION: Did she talk about the additional sanction in the Security Council in UN?

MS. NULAND: Well, she obviously talked about the need to implement the commitment that we had made to take action, as I said.

Lalit.

QUESTION: India. India's main opposition party, BJP, is today alleging that Wal-Mart lobbied here in the U.S. Congress for opening of India's multi-retail sector, and also paid money to Indian officials in this regard. Do you know about these allegations, and what's sort of facts about --

MS. NULAND: Well, we've seen these press reports. Wal-Mart itself has spoken to this directly. With regard to lobbying in the United States, I think you know that the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 require lobbyists for any companies or other organizations to disclose their activities in a periodic report to the Congress. So the report that some of these allegations cite was a regularly required report for the U.S. Government as part of our open government transparency in governance requirements.

QUESTION: With allegations of Wal-Mart paying officials in India for the opening of the multi-brand --

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak for Wal-Mart, but just to tell you that they issued a press release and addressed these directly.

QUESTION: But that's enough for you? There's not any '' you're not aware of any investigation into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or anything like that?

MS. NULAND: On the U.S. --

QUESTION: I mean, this is potentially criminal activity. I don't know what the details are, but --

MS. NULAND: On the U.S. side, I don't have any reason to believe that we have a violation of U.S. law here. With regard to the Indian side, I'll refer you to them.

Okay?

QUESTION: There's one --

MS. NULAND: Oh, I thought I was getting away here. Still Lalit in the back. Sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan and Pakistan.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, there was sharp exchange of words between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the last week's suicide bomb attack against Afghanistan's spy chief. Afghanistan is now saying that ISI was behind this attack. Pakistan is saying it's not. Are you aware about the '' have Afghanistan and Pakistan approached you on this issue?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know the Turks are sponsoring a meeting in '' I don't know if it's today or in the next couple of days '' which will provide an opportunity for direct dialogue between President Karzai and Zardari. This, we think, is a good opportunity for them to talk directly about issues of concern rather than sort of doing it by public statement. Because as you know, we have long supported better dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly in support of Afghan-led reconciliation. So we hope that both sides avail themselves of this meeting that the Turks are offering to work through the issues.

QUESTION: Do you have any reasons to believe the Afghanistan's statement that ISI was behind this suicide attack?

MS. NULAND: We're not going to get into the middle of this one. We want them to talk it out directly.

Please.

QUESTION: Last Friday, the Secretary announced some exceptions to the Iran sanctions that are embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act. The '' Turkey has been involved in natural gas trades with Iran that have resulted in billions of dollars in gold making its way to Tehran. China has been '' it was '' in October it was importing more than half a million barrels a day of Iranian oil. Can you help us understand why they merited exceptions to the sanctions?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think if you go back and read the statement that the Secretary released, it is very clear about the basis for these exceptions. And I just remind that what we are seeking here is a process of reducing dependence on Iranian oil. We obviously want to see as many countries as possible do what the European Union has done and get to zero, but we judge them on how they are reducing over time.

QUESTION: Wait one second, though. I mean, the law doesn't say a process of reducing dependence; it says significant reductions. And convoluted though it is, it also says significant reductions over the prior 180-day period. And I haven't seen the numbers, but I've seen reports about the numbers that suggest that Chinese imports actually may have gone up during some of the months, and therefore I wonder why it is a significant reduction if it's gone up to some degree.

MS. NULAND: Again, we look at the aggregate for the period, we look at the trend line. There are '' obviously the way these things go, sometimes it spikes, but it evaluates the entire period.

Lalit.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up question from a question taken on Friday. When a terrorist organization or any organization is designated as a foreign terrorist outfit or an individual is designated as a foreign terrorist, can he or she or that particular organization can open a account with Facebook or Google because they are U.S. companies, and in the FTO they are '' any U.S. organization and citizens applying for having any interaction with them?

MS. NULAND: Well, when activity is sanctioned, it does give the U.S. Government broad latitude to talk to our companies about the way these sanctions are to be implemented. So each case is different and we evaluate each case individually. There are, as you can imagine, circumstances where it might be advantageous for accounts to stay open. I'm not going to go any further than that.

QUESTION: For instance, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan last week opened an account on Facebook and is seeking applications from journalists as writers, videographers. Is that any violation of FTO? Is it okay with this?

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm going to send you to the Department of Justice on that particular one, okay?

QUESTION: Actually, it raises an interesting point, because when you do open an account on one of these things, you actually have to enter into a contractual agreement with the company by clicking on the box after not reading the long disclaimer that they offer you. (Laughter.)

MS. NULAND: I take it you didn't read it when you opened your account?

QUESTION: No. Does anybody? (Laughter.) Unless they're '' and I don't know, maybe al-Qaida is reading it, but it raises an interesting question, I think. Can those '' maybe L can answer this. I mean, can those contracts '' because it says you can't '' when you're either an FTO or a specially designated global terrorist, you're not allowed to do business with '' or Americans are barred '' presumably that includes American companies '' are barred from doing business with these people, and having an account is doing business with them even if no money is changing hands. So can we find out if that is a potentially sanctionable activity?

MS. NULAND: I'm going to take it in the form that you've just given me, so it may take a little bit.

QUESTION: Okay. I've got just two very brief ones. There's a lot of chatter on the Hill that the ARB report is imminent. Do you have any update on when that might happen? Is it going to '' do you expect them to meet their statutory deadline? Or if there is '' there is some leeway there. If they need more time, they can have it. Do you expect them to meet the deadline or do you think they'll ask and get a little bit more time?

MS. NULAND: Well, just to recall that there's no '' in statute, there's no deadline for when they have to complete their report. In this case, when the Secretary formed them, she asked them to try to meet a 60-65 day timeline. And they pledged to try to do that, which would take you into the middle of December. I don't have any reason to think that we are off base there, but obviously, we want them to do it, do it right. And we'll have '' we'll let you know when there's something to announce.

QUESTION: Can you rule out this week?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to '' I don't have anything to announce one way or the other. I think we'll know when we know.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one is '' this came up with Mark last week and he actually did have an answer, but I was looking for a little bit more specific answer. And that's about this thing in this '' the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Abu Dhabi that the Secretary's going to attend. We've gone back and forth about this before, I think, but he said that you guys had managed to get placed on the agenda an item about how to cooperate with non-member states.

This, as you'll recall, is a question that relates to Israel. And he was able to answer that question, but I'm just wondering, is that agenda item specifically designed for Israel? And whether it is or not, does it envision them becoming a member, a fully fledged member of this group, or does it envisage just them continuing to not be a member and just working with them outside the formal mechanism?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me just remind that the intent of the Global Counterterrorism Forum was that it would be open and that it would grow over time and more states would be able to participate. So just to follow up on what Mark said last week, we do want to talk at this coming-up meeting in Abu Dhabi about how we do that not only with regard to Israel but with regard to a number of other states that want to participate.

So let me simply say that precisely what's going to be reviewed on '' I guess, is it next '' is it Thursday or Friday? I can't remember what day we're in the UAE this week. We'll have more precise information about as we get closer to it. But the goal is to ensure that those states that have something to offer, whether it's in working groups or whether it's as formal members, over time have an opportunity to participate in the status that they're interested in.

QUESTION: Do you know or could you find out if it '' if the agenda item foresees Israel or any other country becoming a member, a new member, or if it just looks at how countries that aren't members can fit in on the sidelines?

MS. NULAND: Let me say that we will '' in the context of preparing you to cover the trip, as I know you are, we will have more to say on that. Okay?

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. NULAND: One last one here and then we'll go. Yeah.

QUESTION: One more on chemical weapons. Although you cannot confirm their use over the weekend, does the U.S. remain concerned that President Assad is in a position to use them?

MS. NULAND: Our position on this has not changed. The President spoke to it, Secretary spoke to it, Panetta spoke to it. You know our concerns.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 209

Drone Strike Kills Al Qaeda Leader AND AT LEAST 2 Others

Syrian rebels unveil homemade tank

Link to Article

Source: MRCTV - News & Politics

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 06:44

From a distance it looks rather like a big rusty metal box but closer inspection reveals the latest achievement of Syrian rebels: a homemade armoured vehicle waiting to be deployed. Sham II, named after ancient Syria, is built from the chassis of a car and touted by rebels as "100 percent made in Syria."

Via Russia Today

(h/t Weasel Zippers)

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