Archive for May, 2012

NATO KILLS SENIOR AL QAEDA LEADER IN AFGHANISTAN

May 31, 2012

Fox News on May 29, 2012, published an AP report on the U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan killing al Qaeda’s second-highest leader in the country in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province. Excerpts below:

Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said. He frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al Qaeda leadership and ferrying in weapons and fighters.

The airstrike that killed al-Taifi and another al Qaeda militant took place on May 27 in Kunar’s Watahpur district, the coalition said. A follow-on assessment of the area determined that no civilians were harmed, it said.

Most of al Qaeda’s senior leaders are now believed to be based in Pakistan, where they fled following the U.S. invasion. The terrorist organization is believed to have only a nominal presence in Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, two would-be suicide bombers riding in a vehicle packed with explosives in eastern Nangarhar province were killed when the vehicle exploded prematurely, said a local government official, Shakrulla. Three others in the vehicle were severely wounded. The explosion occurred on the main highway between Jalalabad city and Torkham, a town on the Pakistani border.

WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS DRONE ATTACKS

May 30, 2012

Fox News on May 29, 2012, reported that the White House responded to criticism of the Obama administration’s use of drone attacks saying President Obama will do what is necessary to protect Americans from harm. Excerpts below:

“President Obama made clear from the start to his advisers and to the world that we were going to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the American people from harm, and particularly from a terrorist attack,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

There were turning points early in Obama’s term for what is considered an unprecedented and aggressive approach by a president toward dismantling Al Qaeda. Reportedly weighing on the administration’s deliberations were a strike in Yemen that killed civilians and an attempted Christmas 2009 attack on a U.S.-bound jet.

Deliberations also reportedly turned to the legal justification for carrying out the plans, including the fatal 2011 attack on American-born cleric and Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.

Republicans and other critics say Obama has chosen to kill suspected terrorists rather than capture them, an approach they say was necessitated by his failure to keep a campaign promise to craft a plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

“Nearly three and a half years after announcing his intention to close Guantanamo prison, President Obama still hasn’t offered a plan to deal with the dangerous terrorists it holds,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the 29th.

U.S. SAID TO PLAN TO ARM ITALY’S DRONES

May 29, 2012

Fox News on May 29, 2012, reported that the Wall Street Journal said the the Obama administration is planning to arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter. Excerpts below:

The sale would make Italy the first foreign country besides Britain to fly U.S. drones armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs. U.S. officials said Italy intends initially to deploy the armed drones in Afghanistan.

Advocates say such sales would enable trusted allies to conduct military missions on their own as well as help open markets for U.S. drone manufacturers.

The administration sent a confidential “pre-notification” to congressional panels in April detailing its plan to sell kits to Italy to arm up to six Reaper drones, which are larger, more-powerful versions of Predators.

TWO TIBETANS BURN THEMSELVES IN LHASA

May 28, 2012

Radio Free Asia on May 27, 2012, reported that two young Tibetan men set themselves on fire in Lhasa in protest against Chinese rule—the first self-immolations reported in the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to sources. Excerpts below:

They burned themselves in front of Jokhang Temple in central Lhasa—reputedly the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan pilgrims—and were swiftly bundled away by security forces who arrived in several vehicles and cleared the area within 15 minutes, the sources said.

One of them died and the other was injured, state media reported.

“They used a firemen’s hose to douse the fire on the two,” a Tibetan man from Lhasa told RFA, saying no one was permitted to go near the site.

The dead man was identified as Tobgye Tseten, from China’s Gansu province while the injured, Dargye, from Sichuan province, is in stable condition in hospital, state news agency Xinhua reported.

One source said they were monks and aged between 19 and 22 but the details could not be independently verified.

They were believed to be among a few Tibetan youths who gathered to protest against Chinese rule outside the temple located on Barkhor Square, the sources said.

One eyewitness said tourists particularly were kept away from the site of the self-immolations.

A Tibetan living in exile said huge flames engulfed the self-immolators and they may not have survived, citing contacts in the region.

“Lhasa city is now filled with police and para-military forces and the situation is very tense,” one source said.

Unconfirmed reports said Tibetans gathered to protest after the burnings and that there were more arrests.

This is the second self-immolation incident in the Tibetan Autonomous Region amid protests by Tibetans against Beijing’s rule and calls for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, exile sources said.

Prior to the incident, there had been 35 Tibetan self-immolations reported since March 2009. Thirty-four of them had occurred in Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces.

The self-immolations came as Tibetans flock to Lhasa to mark the auspicious Buddhist month of Saka Dawa commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha.

Self-immolation protests which intensified over the last year had also sparked demonstrations in Tibetan-populated Chinese provinces criticizing Chinese policies, which Tibetans say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights, and calling for greater freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has blamed Beijing’s “totalitarian” and “unrealistic” policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

Aside from detaining hundreds of monks from monasteries, Chinese authorities have jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights, exile sources said.

SPACEX DRAGON DOCKS AT SPACE STATION IN HISTORIC FIRST

May 27, 2012

Fox News on May 25, 2012, published an AP report on the first commercial delivery into the cosmos. Excerpts below:

U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station’s 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon after a few hours of extra checks and maneuvers.

“Looks like we’ve got us a dragon by the tail,” Pettit announced from 250 miles up once he locked onto Dragon’s docking mechanism.

This is the first time a private company has attempted to send a vessel to the space station, an achievement previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies.

The astronauts wasted no time getting the Dragon capsule into position for actual docking to the space station. The unmanned capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies on this unprecedented test flight.

On the 24th the capsule came within 1 1/2 miles of the space station in a practice fly-by. It returned to the neighborhood early on the 25th so Pettit, along with Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers could capture it with a robot arm. First, the capsule went through a series of stop-and-go demonstrations to prove it was under good operating control.

SpaceX — officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — is one of several companies vying for the chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil.

That ability ended with NASA’s final shuttle flight last summer.

…the Dragon is designed to safely re-enter the atmosphere, parachuting into the ocean like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules did back in the 1960s. Assuming all goes well…, the space station’s six-man crew will release the Dragon on May 31 after filling it with science experiments and equipment

TIDIGARE JOURNALIST VID DANSKA EKSTRABLADET MISSTÄNKS HA VARIT SUPERSPION FÖR STASI

May 26, 2012

Danska dagstidningen Jyllandsposten rapporterar i en artikel den 26 maj 2012 att journalisten Per Michaelson är den superspion, som avslöjats av forskaren Thomas Wegener Friis. Michaelson förnekar utpekandet.

Enligt upplysningar till dagstidningen Politiken i Köpenhamn är journalist Per Michaelsen identisk med den offentligt kände dansk, som forskaren Thomas Wegener Friis har funnit information om i det tyska Stasiarkivet.

Per Michaelsen har erhållit det borgerliga partiet Venstres frihetspris och flera andra journalistpris för avslöjanden om danskar, som arbetade för östtyska Stasi.

Thomas Wegener Friis og en tysk seniorforskare knuten till Stasiarkivet har tidigare kritiskt analyserat Michaelsons artiklar om Stasi.

År 2009 uttryckte de förvåning över att journalisten kunde offentliggöra namn och täcknamn på danska DDR-agenter två år innan Stasiarkivet hade upplysningar om täcknamn för agenter i utlandet.

På 1970-talet arbetade Michaelson som journalist i Västtyskland och kritiserade då i flera artiklar de västtyska myndigheternas antiterroristarbete.

U.S. PREPARING PLAN FOR ARMS TRANSFERS TO THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY

May 26, 2012

Fox News on May 25, 2012, published an AP report on the U.S. administration preparing a plan that would essentially give U.S. nods of approval to arms transfers from Arab nations to some Syrian opposition fighters. Excerpts below:

The effort, U.S. officials told The Associated Press, would vet members of the Free Syrian Army and other groups to determine whether they are suitable recipients of munitions to fight the Assad government and to ensure that weapons don’t wind up in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists or other extremist groups such as Hezbollah that could target Israel.

U.S. officials, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, stressed that the United States, which is already providing non-lethal aid to Syria’s political opposition, is not supplying military assistance to Assad’s foes.

“Our decision is to support the civilian opposition in nonlethal ways,” she said. “There are other countries who have made other decisions. That’s their sovereign decision to make. We’ve made our decision.”

Privately, officials say that as conditions continue to deteriorate, it would be irresponsible not to weigh in with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and others such as Turkey that have indicated interest in arming the rebels.

By some accounts, those nations already have begun to ship weapons with tacit U.S. agreement. In Turkey, private businessmen have begun funneling weapons into Syria.

Libya’s new rulers, fresh from their own revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, have pledged support for the Syrian rebels, but actually transferring weapons is tricky. Last month, Lebanese authorities seized a ship carrying rocket-propelled grenades and heavy-caliber ammunition, possibly bound for Syrian rebels.


The rebels have cast a wide net, contacting weapons dealers in Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Without some type of U.S. vetting as to who should receive such shipments, the Obama administration and some of its European allies fear that weapons might be used against Western interests.

Al Qaeda has established a limited operational capability in Syria and is responsible for several attacks on Assad targets, the official said. He said analysts believe the goal is to “sow further chaos” and advance an extremist agenda.

AP interviews with security officials, rebels and arms dealers in countries neighboring Syria indicate that individual rebel units have to scrounge for weapons. They have no central organization and no import routes for anything heavier than automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

It is into this mix that the U.S. may soon be inserting itself.

Washington’s supplies of communications equipment and medical supplies to opposition members it has approved are already under way, Officials said that those supplies can now be easily augmented with weapons from other donors.

THE LAW OF THE SEA TREATY WILL HELP SINK AMERICA’S ECONOMY

May 25, 2012

Fox News on May 23, 2012, published an article by Senators Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn on the Law of the Sea (LOST) and international taxation. Excerpts below:

…some in the US Senate want to say yes to an international tax. It would be the first time in history that an international organization would possess taxing authority, and it would amount to billions of American dollars being transferred out of the US Treasury.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, or the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) is the vehicle through which such taxes would be imposed on U.S.-based commercial enterprises.

The treaty that Reagan refused to sign in 1982 is reappearing once again in the Senate. The truth is, LOST contains numerous provisions that hurt the U.S. economy at a time when we need more jobs – not fewer.

Under the guise of being for “the good of mankind, ” LOST would obligate the United States to share information and technology in what amounts to global taxes and technology transfer requirements that are really nothing more than an attempt to redistribute U.S. wealth to the Third World.

At the center of these taxes and transfers is the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a Kingston, Jamaica based supra-national governing body established by the treaty for the purpose of redistributing cash and technology from the “developed world” to the “developing world.”

To make matters worse, the US would have no control over how or to whom the taxes and technology would be redistributed.

Undoubtedly funds that rightfully belong to the American taxpayer would be sent to corrupt governmental regimes, make dictators wealthier, and could even be used for activities directed against the United States and our interests.

…US companies would be forced to give away the very types of innovation that historically have made our nation a world leader while fueling our economic engine.

Our current economic struggles are all the more reason to say no to a treaty that is all cost and no benefit.

Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch is the ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee.

U.S. TO PROTECT PHILIPPINES IN WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

May 24, 2012

Agence France-Presse on May 9, 2012, reported that the Philippines said the United States had pledged to protect it from attacks in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a day after China issued a warning over a territorial row in the waters. Excerpts below:

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he had received the assurances during talks in Washington last week in which the Philippines’ increasingly tense dispute with China over rival claims to a shoal in the sea were discussed.

Gazmin said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed they were not taking sides in the dispute, but they assured the Philippines the United States would honor a 1951 mutual defense treaty.

“It includes armed attack… (on) island territories in the Pacific (region),” Gazmin said, citing conditions for the allies coming to each other’s aid.

China and the Philippines have had vessels stationed at Scarborough Shoal for more than a month in an effort to assert their sovereignty over the area.

China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea as its own, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries.

The Philippines insists it has sovereignty over the shoal because it falls within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and 1,200 kilometers northwest from the nearest major Chinese land mass, according to Filipino navy maps.

Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas resources, making the area one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

CHANGE OF SIBERIAN CLIMATE DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING – A BENEFIT?

May 23, 2012

GeoCurrents on May 22, 2012, published a report on the possibility that Siberia’s climate will significantly change over the coming decades due to global warming. If the predicted warming occurs, could the change prove beneficial for Siberia, and Russia more generally? Many Russians think so. Excerpts below:

Russian experts who accept the reality of global warming, moreover, often welcome it for the advantages that it could bring the country. In September 2003, Vladimir Putin noted that global warming would help Russians, “save on fur coats and other warm things.” Other Russian politicians have focused more on the damage that climate change could do to Russia’s geopolitical rivals. The ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, for example, is reported to have “publicly pined for the day when global warming takes its toll on the West, gloating that London will be submerged by the Thames and “Britain will have to give freedom to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Possible economic benefits of a warmer world for Russia are spelled out in recent article by Serge Korepin. The displacement of the Siberian permafrost zone, which could retreat by more than 100 miles (161 km) by 2050, would facilitate the extraction of mineral resources. The reduction of the Arctic ice pack, moreover, would promote mining and drilling in offshore areas. By the same token, the retreat of the pack ice will ease maritime transportation in the far north, allowing the full realization of the long-envisaged Northeastern Passage, shortening shipping routes between the north Atlantic and the north Pacific.

Actually, such changes are already occurring. As reported last year by the New York Times:

The Russians, by traveling near the coast, have been sailing the Northeast Passage for a century. They opened it to international shipping in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But only recently have companies begun to find the route profitable, as the receding polar ice cap has opened paths farther offshore — allowing larger, modern ships with deeper drafts to make the trip, trimming days off the voyage and saving fuel.

Most importantly, warming could also enhance Russian agriculture, says economist Svetlana Soboleva. Although drier conditions might damage farming in southern European Russia, warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons would be beneficial in the north and east, especially in Siberia.

Prediction of the complete transformation of global agricultural and settlement patterns due to climate change are highly speculative, as specific changes of both temperature and precipitation are impossible to forecast with any accuracy.

If the main consequence for Russia is the lengthening of the growing season in Siberia, the agrarian ramifications for the country could well be positive.