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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chrysler




Mexico shuts down Mexico. Obama leaves border open. Where's the common sense?



In Mexico City, a metropolis of 20 million, all schools, restaurants, nightclubs and public events have been shut down to try to stop the disease from spreading, bringing normal life to a virtual standstill, yet when Obama was asked about closing the US border, the all knowing one said, "At this point, (health officials) have not recommended a border closing," ... "From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.

Think about this. 

All roads point to Mexico. The Mexicans in their desperation and wisdom say,  "hold commerce and travel for five days." The President of Mexico, Calderon, states, "There is no safer place than your own home to avoid being infected with the flu virus."

Bush was harshly criticised for not acting promptly after Hurricane Katrina. Obama has chosen not to act swiftly and decisively with a common sense approach being used by the Mexicans in Mexico. The borders should have been closed. There were still plenty of infected horses left in the barn. A horse's ass on a thoroughbred is still a horse's ass.

Swine flu prompts Mexico to shut down economy

Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:37am EDT
By Catherine Bremer

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon told his people to stay home from Friday for a five-day partial shutdown of the economy, after the World Health Organization said a swine flu pandemic was imminent.

Calderon ordered government offices and private businesses not crucial to the economy to stop work to avoid further infections from the new virus, which has killed up to 176 people in Mexico and is now spreading around the world.

"There is no safer place than your own home to avoid being infected with the flu virus," Calderon said in his first televised address since the crisis erupted last week.

Eleven countries have reported cases of the H1N1 strain, and Texas officials said a 22-month-old Mexican boy had died in Texas while on a family visit, the first confirmed swine flu death outside Mexico.

Switzerland confirmed on Thursday its first case, saying a man returning from Mexico had tested positive for the flu.

The WHO raised the official alert level to phase 5, the last step before a pandemic.

"Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

"The biggest question is this: how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start," Chan said. But she added that the world "is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history."

WORLD STOCK MARKETS RALLY

Mexico's peso currency weakened sharply early on Thursday after the government called for chunks of the economy to close. The peso fell 1.6 percent to 13.83 per dollar.

But world stocks struck a four-month peak, powered by gains in Asia on Thursday, as investors took heart from signs of improvement in the U.S. economy.

Markets earlier in the week had taken fright and fallen on worries that a major flu outbreak could hit the struggling global economy. Almost all those infected outside Mexico have had mild symptoms, and only a handful of people have been hospitalized.

In Mexico City, a metropolis of 20 million, all schools, restaurants, nightclubs and public events have been shut down to try to stop the disease from spreading, bringing normal life to a virtual standstill.

Spain reported the first case in Europe of swine flu in a person who had not been to Mexico, illustrating the danger of person-to-person transmission.

Both U.S. and European officials have said they expect to see swine flu deaths.

President Barack Obama said during an evening news conference at the White House on Wednesday there was no need for panic and rejected the possibility of closing the border with Mexico.

"At this point, (health officials) have not recommended a border closing," he said. "From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States."

Obama also praised his predecessor for stockpiling anti-viral medication in anticipation of such an outbreak.

"I think the Bush administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond," Obama said. "For example, we've got 50 million courses of anti-viral drugs in the event that they're needed."

EXPERT SAYS VIRUS RELATIVELY WEAK

Masato Tashiro, head of the influenza virus research center at Japan's National Institute of Infectious Disease and a member of the WHO emergency committee, told Japan's Nikkei newspaper it appeared the H1N1 strain was far less dangerous than avian flu.

"The virus is relatively weak and about the same as regular influenza viruses passed on via human-to-human contact. I don't believe it will become virulent," he was quoted as saying.

"The threat to health from the avian influenza and its fatality rate is much greater than the new flu," he said.

"I am very worried that we will use up the stockpile of anti-flu medicine and be unarmed before we need to fight against the avian influenza. The greatest threat to mankind remains the H5N1 avian influenza."

The WHO's Chan urged companies who make the drugs to ramp up production. Two antiviral drugs -- Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline and Tamiflu, made by Roche AG and Gilead Sciences Inc -- have been shown to work against the H1N1 strain.

Mexico's central bank warned the outbreak could deepen the nation's recession, hurting an economy that already shrank by as much as 8 percent from the previous year in the first quarter.

France said it would seek a European Union ban on flights to Mexico. The EU, the United States and Canada have advised against non-essential travel to Mexico, and many tourists were hurrying to leave, crowding airports
.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Jason Lange, Catherine Bremer, Alistair Bell and Helen Popper in Mexico City; Laura MacInnis and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Yoko Nishikawa in Tokyo; Writing by Andrew Marshall and Dean Yates; Editing by Bill Tarrant)



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pakistan is getting serious about the Taliban, sort of.




Pakistan drops troops behind Taliban lines
Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:05am BST

BUNER, Pakistan (Reuters) -
Pakistani troops dropped from helicopters onto hillsides behind Taliban fighters holding entrances to the Buner valley, according to witnesses, as the second day of an offensive began on Wednesday.

Pakistan's demonstration of military resolve will reassure U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, when they meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Washington on May 6/7 to discuss regional strategy.

The Taliban's entry into a region just 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Islamabad earlier this month had sent shivers through Pakistan and sparked alarm in the United States.

The army, however, said a few hundred militants holed up in the mountains did not represent a real threat to the capital of the nuclear-armed Muslim nation, despite their proximity.

Residents could see and hear the fighting on the slopes overlooking Buner town on Wednesday, and several saw troops rappelling down ropes from helicopters in a drop behind enemy lines.

"We saw a helicopter dropping troops on the hills early this morning. It came about seven or eight times," said Arshad Imran standing in the town's central bazaar.

"We hear sound of explosions off and on and we can see helicopters flying over the mountains."

The military estimated some 500 militants were in Buner, and that it might take a week to clear them out. Jet fighters and helicopters gunships provided air support for army and paramilitary troops leading the offensive on Tuesday.

U.S. ENCOURAGEMENT

Pakistan is desperate for military and economic support to fight the insurgency.

But allies had feared Zardari's government was too ready to appease the militants after he signed off on a regulation to introduce Islamic sharia courts in the Malakand division in the North West Frontier Province.

Malakand has a long history of Islamist fervour going back to the British Raj in pre-Partition India, even though in earlier times the Swat valley had been a centre of Buddhism and until a couple of years ago had been a favourite destination for honeymooners, hikers and skiers.

While Buner is located south of Swat, the first military operation began southwest of Swat, in Lower Dir district on Sunday.

The government had hoped that meeting demands for sharia courts would quieten the militants in Swat.

But the Taliban instead became emboldened, fanning out of Swat into other parts of Malakand, including Buner, Lower Dir and Shangla districts.

A military spokesman said 10 soldiers and around 70 militants were killed in three days of fighting in Dir, though there were no independent casualty estimates.

The Pentagon urged Pakistan to remain on the offensive.

"The key is to sustain these operations at this tempo and to keep the militants on their heels and to, ultimately, defeat them," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

"The test of all of these Pakistani military operations -- because we've seen them from time to time in the past -- is always their sustainability," he told reporters in Washington.

Washington is considering rushing hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid to Pakistan, the U.S. Senate's second-ranking Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, told reporters.

There have been signs of a sea change within Pakistan's fractious polity, with even conservative religious parties recognising the need to push the Taliban back.

A police official in Buner, speaking on condition of anonymity, said militants briefly took dozens of policemen and Frontier Constabulary personnel hostage in the district's Pir Baba area but released them on condition they would stay out of the fight. There was no official confirmation of the incident.

(Additional reporting by Junaid Khan and Augustine Anthony in Pakistan; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Bill Tarrant)


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vestas, world's biggest wind energy group, losing sail.

A Danish Nordtank wind turbine suffers a brake failure 
( manufactured by Vestas ). Hard to understand why anyone would object to this in their neighborhood.

Care to speculate how many billions will get blown in US wind dreams and boondoggles?

_____________________

Britain's only wind turbine plant to close

Vestas is to shut down its Isle of Wight factory in the face of collapsing demand from a wind-farming industry hobbled by the recession and red tape

Tim Webb
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 April 2009 13.13 BST

The UK's only wind turbine manufact uring plant is to close, dealing a humili ating blow to the government's promise to support low-carbon industries.

Vestas, the world's biggest wind energy group, said today that it would close its Isle of Wight facility, which employs about 700 people and makes blades for wind farms in the US.

The group had planned to convert the factory in Newport so it could make blades for the British market, but said this morning that the paralysis gripping the industry meant that orders had ground to a halt. Such low demand could not justify the investment, Ditlev Engel, the chief executive, told the Guardian.

He said the group would consult with the workers for the next two to three months, adding that there was a glimmer of hope investment in the plant could still go ahead if orders picked up soon.

Engel said last week's budget, which increased subsidies available for offshore wind farms, as well as recent moves to free up the sluggish planning process, could boost the industry but it was too early to say whether orders would pick enough to rescue the plant.

"The government has tried to improve the situation," he said. "Whether it's enough I don't know."

In early March, Gordon Brown convened a low-carbon industrial summit aimed at finding ways to help low-carbon manufacturers lead the UK out of recession. Vestas representatives attended the meeting.

Engel said the group was in "constant dialogue" with the government and had informed it of today's move. He admitted that no aid or assistance had been offered by Whitehall to try to save the plant. But he reserved his fiercest criticism for local politicians who he said were holding up projects, particularly onshore, giving the UK one of the lengthiest planning processes for developers wanting to build wind farms anywhere in the world.

"Since last summer, the order intake in the UK market has dropped significantly. Therefore it would be very difficult to substantiate the investment as we had already planned.

"The UK has large wind resources and it's a priority for the government but the orders didn't move. That's why we're telling employees that we're not reinvesting there.

"We are waiting to see in the coming period if the government initiative announced last week will get the market to move again. At least it gives some hope but it's too early to tell."

Engel said the weakness of the pound had also had an effect, making it more expensive to build wind farms in the UK, but the major problem lay in planning application.

"It is extremely time consuming and extremely complicated. Some of our developers, customers, will tell you it is so difficult. In the UK nimbyism is a huge challenge. This is outside of Whitehall territory.

"People talk about big offshore parks. Why not put in onshore parks? The cost of installation is half compared to offshore."

The Isle of Wight facility will stop making blades in June. The R&D department, which employs about 150 people, will remain open.

Engel admitted that if Vestas makes its skilled workers redundant but sees a pick-up in orders later in the year, it would be harder to reopen the plant because it would have to find a new skilled workforce.


The real world pirates are the Chinese.

The West used to know how to treat Chinese pirates.



The New York Times headline is somewhat different from what I chose for them. Read the article about intellectual theft and technological piracy. China deserves a special tariff to compensate the west for their brazen thievery, 125% is about right for my taste. The article is intellectual spit.
_________________________



April 28, 2009
In China, Knockoff Cellphones Are a Hit

By DAVID BARBOZA NY Times
SHENZHEN, China — The phone’s sleek lines and touch-screen keyboard are unmistakably familiar. So is the logo on the back. But a sales clerk at a sprawling electronic goods market in this Chinese coastal city admits what is clear upon closer inspection: this is not the Apple iPhone; this is the Hi-Phone.

“But it’s just as good,” the clerk says.

Nearby, dozens of other vendors are selling counterfeit Nokia, Motorola and Samsung phones — as well as cheap look-alikes that make no bones about being knockoffs.

“Five years ago, there were no counterfeit phones,” says Xiong Ting, a sales manager at Triquint Semiconductor, a maker of mobile phone parts, while visiting Shenzhen. “You needed a design house. You needed software guys. You needed hardware design. But now, a company with five guys can do it. Within 100 miles of here, you can find all your suppliers.”

Technological advances have allowed hundreds of small Chinese companies, some with as few as 10 employees, to churn out what are known here as shanzhai, or black market, cellphones, often for as little as $20 apiece.

And just as Chinese companies are trying to move up the value chain of manufacturing, from producing toys and garments to making computers and electric cars, so too are counterfeiters. After years of making fake luxury bags and cheap DVDs, they are capturing market share from the world’s biggest mobile phone makers.

Although shanzhai phones have only been around a few years, they already account for more than 20 percent of sales in China, which is the world’s biggest mobile phone market, according to the research firm Gartner.

They are also being illegally exported to Russia, India, the Middle East, Europe, even the United States. “The shanzhai phone market is expanding crazily,” says Wang Jiping, a senior analyst at IDC, which tracks technology trends. “They copy Apple, Nokia, whatever they like, and they respond to the market swiftly.”

Alarmed by the rapid growth of counterfeits and no-name knockoffs, global brands are pressing the Chinese government to crack down on their proliferation, and are warning consumers about potential health hazards, like cheap batteries that can explode.

Nokia, the world’s biggest cellphone maker, says it is working with Beijing to fight counterfeiting. Motorola says much the same. Apple Inc. declined to comment.

Even Chinese mobile phone producers are losing market share to underground companies, which have a built-in cost advantage because they evade taxes, regulatory fees and safety checks.

“We’re being severely hurt by shanzhai phones,” says Chen Zhao, a sales director at Konka, a Chinese cellphone maker. “Legal cellphone makers should pay 17 percent of their revenue as value-added tax, but shanzhai makers, of course, won’t pay it.”

So far, however, China has done little to stop the proliferation of fake mobile phones, which are even advertised on late-night television infomercials with pitches like “one-fifth the price, but the same function and look,” or patriotic appeals like “Buy shanzhai to show your love of our country.”

Last month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology did warn consumers about the hazards of shanzhai phones, saying “their radiation usually exceeds the limit.” China’s consumer protection agency says faulty mobile phones were the No. 1 consumer complaint last year.

A few weeks ago, a 45-year-old man in south China was severely burned after his cellphone exploded in his shirt pocket, according to state-run news media.

But that hasn’t seemed to affect sales of black market phones, which typically sell at retail for $100 to $150. In the spirit of what is called “shanzhai” — which suggests rebels or bandits and which applies to counterfeit products of all kinds — many consumers are willing to take a risk on a cheap item that looks stylish.

“I saw iPhone pictures on the Web; it’s so cool. But it costs over $500 — too expensive,” says Yang Guibin, 30, an office worker from Chongqing. “So I decided to buy a shanzhai iPhone. I bought it in a digital market here; it looked exactly like the iPhone.”

Some experts say they believe the shanzhai phenomena is about being creative, Chinese style.

“Chinese grass-roots companies are actually very innovative,” says Yu Zhou, a professor at Vassar College. “It’s not so much technology as how they form supply chains and how rapidly they react to new trends.”

While the phones may look like famous brands, companies actually add special features like bigger screens, dual-mode SIM cards (which allow two phone numbers) and even a telescopic lens attachment for the phone’s camera.

Since it is the SIM card that makes a phone run in China, as in most places other than the United States, all you have to do is insert a valid SIM card into a shanzhai phone and it works.

All this innovation comes from an industry that only took off in 2005, after Mediatek, a semiconductor design company from Taiwan, helped significantly reduce the cost and complexity of producing a mobile phone.

Using what experts call a turnkey solution, Mediatek developed a circuit board that could inexpensively integrate the functions of multiple chips, offering start-ups a platform to produce a low-cost mobile phone.

The industry got another boost in 2007, when regulators said companies no longer needed a license to manufacture a cellphone.

That set off a scramble by entrepreneurs in this electronics manufacturing center. Counterfeiting and off-brand knockoffs flourished. Tiny companies would buy a Mediatek chip loaded with software, source other components and ask a factory to assemble them.

Marketing strategies were simple: steal. Designs and brand names were copied identically or simply mimicked. (Sumsung for Samsung or Nckia for Nokia.)

Tapping into the supply chains of big brands is easy, producers say. “It’s really common for factories to do a night shift for other companies,” says Zhang Haizhen, who recently ran a shanzhai company here. “No one will refuse an order if it is over 5,000 mobile phones.”

The people who make fake iPhones admit it’s a shady business.

“We are a kind of illegal producer,” says Zhang Feiyang, whose company, Yuanyang, makes an iPhone clone. “In Shenzhen there are many small mills, hidden. Basically, we can make any type of cellphone.”

The competition is already forcing global brands to lower prices, analysts say. And new Chinese brands are emerging, like Meizu, a would-be Apple that has opened stylish stores here.

“Our phone is even better than the iPhone,” says Liu Zeyu, a Meizu salesman in Shenzhen. “Our goal is to create a phone that makes Chinese proud.”


Chen Yang contributed research.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Mark Levin on Sal Alinsky (For Trish)

Taliban murder Pakistani couple for adultery, on video. Allah Akbar, of course.


Taliban gunmen have been filmed executing a surprised couple whom they repeatedly shot for the alleged crime of adultery.

Pakistan is getting a close look at the horror of what is before them. It is late in the game but Pakistani paramilitary troops assisted by helicopter gunships attacked Taliban militants in the Malakand Agency on Sunday. They claimed that they killed 30 militants. 

Of course, had they been attacked by US forces, 29 of them would have been widows and orphans on the way to a religious shrine.

It is too little too late.

___________________________

Taliban gunmen shooting couple dead for adultery caught on camera

Telegraph
Their deaths were squalid, riddled with bullets in a field near their home by Taliban gunmen as the execution was captured on a mobile telephone.

In footage which is being watched with horror by Pakistanis, the couple try to flee when they realise what is about to happen. But a gunman casually shoots the man and then the woman in the back with a burst of gunfire, leaving them bleeding in the dirt.

Moments later, when others in the execution party shout out that they are still alive, he returns to coldly finish them with a few more rounds.

Their "crime" was an alleged affair in their remote mountain village controlled by militants in an area that was only recently under the government's sway. It was the kind of barbarity that has become increasingly familiar across Pakistan as the Taliban tide has spread.

But this time, with black-turbaned gunmen almost at the gates of Islamabad, the rare footage has shown urban Pakistanis what could now await them.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that Islamic extremists could take over the nation.

In the past few days the footage has circulated among Pakistanis who usually show little interest in the rough ways of the distant frontier regions.

They have now started to wake up to the fear that al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the frontier could take over their nation.
The killings happened in Hangu district, in North West Frontier Province, about two hours drive from the regional capital Peshawar. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic militia which has swept across the NWFP towards the capital Islamabad.

Last week, the Taliban had reached within 60 miles of Islamabad, in Buner district. Their takeover sparked panic in the West, which was already appalled by a peace deal that the government had signed this month with Taliban in adjacent the Swat valley.

In an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on the people of Pakistan to defy their government, saying they "need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents".

The Taliban had agreed a withdrawal, in the last couple of days, to their stronghold of Swat. That will scarcely make the government and elite in the capital Islamabad feel much safer, as Swat is only 100 miles from them.

"The Taliban are steady and confident, the government is weak and faltering," said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University and one of Pakistan's leading intellectuals.

"A Taliban victory will enslave our women, destroy Pakistan's rich historical and cultural heritage, make education and science impossible, and make the lives of its citizens impossibly difficult. Some are already contemplating an exodus."

Pakistan today stands on a knife-edge, threatened with anarchy. The desperate deal signed with the Taliban in Swat looks set to fall apart. The result will almost certainly be violence. An army convoy heading into Swat on Saturday morning was stopped by the Taliban and forced to turn back, in a naked display of their power.

They seem to have been only emboldened by the peace agreement. Many believe that a bloody military operation now looks inevitable,

For those in areas falling under Taliban control, their harsh rule is terrifying.

An SOS text message sent out on Friday by a terrified local resident, in an area of Swat called Bahrain, says that the Taliban have established total control. Asking not be named for fear of reprisal, he said that they have set up check posts at the entrance to Bahrain, from where they kidnap those they want, including young women.

"They've even warned the local schools to close the girl classes or face dire consequences. Yet the government says its writ is in Swat."

Another Swat resident said: "Every day I see armed Taliban move around freely. At the time of prayer, if they see anyone in his shop or walking about, they whip him with a stick."

The Pakistani Taliban, a copy of the Afghan extremist movement, have long controlled the tribal area along the Afghan border, which is a sanctuary for militants, including al-Qaeda. But it is their march into the heart of the country that has horrified ordinary Pakistanis, and the wider world. And the threat comes not just from the Taliban to the west. Islamic extremists, who are not part of the Taliban, are already entrenched in Islamabad and across the Punjab, the most populous province, seemingly ready to surface when their moment comes.

Islamabad's defences are being hurriedly fortified, with paramilitary troops stationed on the Margalla Hills, which overlook the city from the West. In the capital, there are thousands of followers of the radical Red Mosque, where there are now open calls for Islamic revolution at the weekly Friday prayers.

"The Taliban will not stop at Swat. They will come towards Islamabad," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst based in Lahore. "If the army is to take action against them, it is going to be a really bloody battle. And then civil government will be knocked out."

"Extremist groups based in Islamabad will move from within and they (Taliban) will build pressure from outside."
The footage Pakistanis have been watching shows them what they could expect.

A local journalist was invited to witness the execution, who filmed it with his mobile phone for a Pakistani channel, Dawn News. The Sunday Telegraph is showing the footage in the West for the first time.
There were no names for the two victims.

"Using the media is part of their (the Taliban's) psychological warfare," said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of Centre for Research and Security Studies, an independent think tank in Islamabad. "This way, they inject fear into the minds of people who might oppose them, keeping the majority silent."

After the couple were shot, the family were told to take their bodies away for burial. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban linked to warlord Baitullah Mehsud.





Sunday, April 26, 2009

Presenting, President Zuma of South Africa.




Jacob Zuma faces first lady dilemma

ANC leader who looks set to be South Africa's next president may have to choose between his many wives
David Smith in Pretoria
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 April 2009


The voters appear to have made their choice abundantly clear in South Africa's election. Now the president-in-waiting, Jacob Zuma, must make a delicate diplomatic choice of his own: which of his wives will be the country's first lady?

When Zuma attends events such as the G20, at which the Wags attracted much attention recently, there is likely to be only one seat allocated to his spouse alongside the likes of Michelle Obama, Sarah Brown and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Zuma once told a television interviewer: "There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they're monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I'm proud of my children."

When the president of the African National Congress (ANC) voted in his rural Zulu homeland yesterday, one of his wives stood to the side watching patiently as he was mobbed by cheering crowds and reporters.

Nompumelelo Ntuli, 34, Zuma's youngest wife, was soon attracting her own crowd of admirers. Women whispered: "Isn't she beautiful!" as Ntuli, decked out in an apricot and blue tie-dye outfit, cast a smile. "Jesus is Lord!" was all she said in response to questions.

Reports conflict on how many times Zuma, 67, a Zulu traditionalist and unabashed polygamist, has married over the years. His first wife is Sizakele Khumalo, whom he has known for 50 years and married in 1973.

He wed Ntuli last year, and reportedly was married again in January to Thobeka Mabhija, a Durban socialite with whom he is said to have two children.

Two more wives are no longer with him. Kate Mantsho Zuma killed herself in 2000. He divorced the other, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in 1998, although she remains a trusted aide and, as the country's foreign affairs minister, is expected to join his cabinet. He is said to have more than 10 children; possibly as many as 18.

South African law recognises such marriages, although fewer young South Africans are entering into them because they are seen as expensive and old-fashioned. It remains common among several tribes, however, including the Zulus and Swazis.

In the contest to be first lady, Khumalo has the seniority and experience but Ntuli has the glamour and ease in social situations. Khumalo, who presides over the family homestead near the school where Zuma voted in Kwanxamalala, rarely appears in public.

Ntuli, who uses her maiden name, as is customary in polygamous marriages to differentiate among the wives, has been more active outside the home. She organised a prayer meeting in south-eastern South Africa earlier this year, calling for political tolerance, and established a community development foundation.

ANC officials decline to comment, insisting that it is a private matter for Zuma.




Swine flu.



(CNN) -- Mexican officials are asking citizens to avoid large crowds, refrain from kissing as a greeting and maintain a distance of at least 1.8 meters (six feet) from each other amid growing concern in the country and elsewhere over new cases of suspected and confirmed swine flu infection.

Several countries issued travel notices and tightened restrictions to brace against the virus the World Health Organization is calling "a public health emergency of international concern."

By Sunday, 81 deaths had been deemed "likely linked" to a deadly new strain of the virus by health authorities in Mexico. Viral testing has confirmed 20 cases, said Dr. Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's health secretary. In the United States, the number of confirmed swine flu cases stood at 11.

In New Zealand, officials said 22 students and three teachers, who returned from a three-week-long language trip to Mexico, may have been infected with the virus.

The 25 students and teachers at Auckland's Rangitoto College returned to New Zealand via Los Angeles on Saturday.

Fourteen have shown flu-like symptoms, with four "more unwell than others," said Dr. Julia Peters, clinical director of Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said 10 students tested positive for influenza A. The specimens will be sent to WHO to determine whether it is H1N1 swine influenza. H1N1 influenza is a subset of influenza A.

The WHO results are expected back by midweek. The group remains quarantined at home.

"It's certainly has not been confirmed that they have swine flu," said Dr. Craig Thoinley, medical officer of health in influenza. "We already have provisional information that some of the group have influenza A. We won't know if they have the type of influenza A that is swine flu."

In England, authorities stressed that a crew member who developed flu-like symptoms during a flight from Mexico City to Heathrow did not test positive for swine flu.

"I can confirm that the patient doesn't have swine flu," said Jonathan Street, a spokesman for Northwick Park Hospital in London.

"We have done all test, and they all came back negative."

In Israel, doctors are running tests on a man who recently returned from Mexico with light flu symptoms.

U.S. health officials said Friday that some cases of the virus in the United States matched samples of the deadly Mexican virus. All the patients have recovered or are expected to.

The panic over the virus prompted Canada to issue a travel health notice, saying the public health agency was "tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico." Watch CBC report on Canadian microbiologists' concerns »

South Korea said it will test airline passengers arriving from the United States. And Japan will convene a Cabinet meeting Monday to come up with measures to block the entry of the virus into the country.

The United States had not issued any travel warnings or quarantines.

But US Airways said Saturday night it would allow passengers to change plans if they wanted to because of the outbreak.

Airline spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said it was not asking people not to travel to Mexico, but wanted to "give them that flexibility" if "they don't feel comfortable."

Gregory Hartl, of the World Health Organization, said the strain of the virus seen in Mexico is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains. Watch how public health officials grade phases of pandemic alerts »

"Any time that there is a virus which changes ... it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to dealing with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to dealing with this new virus," Hartl said.

He said that, in Mexico, otherwise young, healthy people have been hit by the virus -- "one of the pieces of the puzzle that is worrying us," he said.

More than 1,300 people with flu-like symptoms have been admitted to hospitals in Mexico, and officials are trying to determine how many of them have swine flu, said Jose Cordova Villalobos, the country's health minister.

The H1N1 strain of swine flu is usually associated with pigs. When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat or fight off.

Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC said. Learn more about swine flu and how to treat it »


President Barack Obama, who visited Mexico last week en route to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, is not sick.

"The president's trip to Mexico has not put his health in any danger," spokesman Robert Gibbs said.



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is there a more pathetic power than our Nato ally, Germany?

Definitely not their grandfathers' navy

This news clip appears in DW, which is the German voice to the World: 

Pirates have seized a German vessel

No outrage, calm,  but the first sentence does say " the ship's 17 crew members are unhurt, according to a Kenyan maritime official." OK, a German ship is taken on the high seas by pirates and the Germans are relieved because a Kenyan maritime official tells them all is well. 

But the Germans are going to do something about it, right? 

We learn the vessel is sailing under the flag of Malta. OK, I guess that makes it a little less of a German problem. 

A Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program says they heard about the taking. That was news to the Germans, because some Ministry officials in Berlin said they didn't know much about it but were investigating. WTF kind of ministry are they exactly? It gets worse.

"The attack comes just a day after NATO decided to extend its anti-piracy work off the coast of Somalia." 

Nato really scared the shit out of them didn't they, but we learn more about the Nato ops:

"Four vessels from NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group One have been conducting anti-piracy work and escorting merchant ships, including some carrying food aid for Somalia, since last month."

War ships carrying food aid, does this war ship have any guns? WTF? It gets worse.

"The naval ships were due to make courtesy port visits to Karachi in Pakistan, Singapore and Perth in Western Australia, but the last two visits have been cancelled, the spokeswoman said.". 

The pirates are off Somalia. They are not in Singapore or Perth, Australia. How much are the Germans spending on Nato? How much are we spending on Nato? It gets worse.

"They now will break off to visit Karachi on April 26-27 but will return to continue their counter-piracy work until June 6.

"With the great increase in pirate attacks and the ensuing international attention, NATO's recent contribution to counter-piracy has been significant," the spokeswoman said.


Six weeks and they are tired. This is significant counter piracy from Nato?

Please get us out  of Nato, mach schnell.



________________


PIRACY | 25.04.2009
Somali pirates hijack German ship after NATO extends naval mission

The latest hijacking came after NATO extended it anti-piracy mission

Somali pirates have seized a 31,000-ton German grain carrier in the Gulf of Aden but the ship's 17 crew members are unhurt, according to a Kenyan maritime official.

The US Navy's 5th Fleet confirmed that the ship "Patriot" was seized 300 kilometers south-east of the Yemeni coastal city Muqalla. The freighter was sailing under the flag of Malta.

"I hear it was taken early this morning," said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Program, in a statement released on Saturday.

Ministry officials in Berlin could not confirm the reports but said investigations were under way.

Piracy attacks off the eastern African coast have escalated in the past few weeks despite the presence of a flotilla of foreign navy warships in the region.

Pirates there are holding more than 250 hostages and have made millions of dollars through ransoms, driving up insurance costs. Some shipping lines now opt to use a longer and more expensive route around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid capture.

NATO extends anti-piracy mission

The attack comes just a day after NATO decided to extend its anti-piracy work off the coast of Somalia.

"NATO has decided to continue the counter-piracy activities off Somalia in the Gulf of Aden," said a spokesman for the transatlantic alliance at its Brussels headquarters.

NATO ships will continue to patrol the Gulf of Aden

Four vessels from NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group One have been conducting anti-piracy work and escorting merchant ships, including some carrying food aid for Somalia, since last month.

The naval ships were due to make courtesy port visits to Karachi in Pakistan, Singapore and Perth in Western Australia, but the last two visits have been cancelled, the spokeswoman said.

They now will break off to visit Karachi on April 26-27 but will return to continue their counter-piracy work until June 6.

"With the great increase in pirate attacks and the ensuing international attention, NATO's recent contribution to counter-piracy has been significant," the spokeswoman said.

Pirates attacked over 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year — more than double last year's total, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Attacks increased tenfold in the first three months of 2009 compared to the same period last year.


"The more I see of man, the more I like dogs" - Mme. de Stael



video


Plastics are devastating the seas.




The Telegraph:

Drowning in plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France

There are now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world's oceans, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Worse still, there seems to be nothing we can do to clean it up. So how do we turn the tide?

Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris.

It was discovered in 1997 by a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist and early-retired furniture restorer named Charles Moore, who was heading home with his crew from a sailing race in Hawaii, at the helm of a 50ft catamaran that he had built himself.

For the hell of it, he decided to turn on the engine and take a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a region that seafarers have long avoided. It is a perennial high pressure zone, an immense slowly spiralling vortex of warm equatorial air that pulls in winds and turns them gently until they expire. Several major sea currents also converge in the gyre and bring with them most of the flotsam from the Pacific coasts of Southeast Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic.

'It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,' says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory. 'Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags. Half of it was just little chips that we couldn't identify. It wasn't a revelation so much as a gradual sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong here. Two years later I went back with a fine-mesh net, and that was the real mind-boggling discovery.'

Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, was a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. An awful thought occurred to Moore and he started measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton. Plastic won, and it wasn't even close. 'We found six times more plastic than plankton, and this was just colossal,' he says. 'No one had any idea this was happening, or what it might mean for marine ecosystems, or even where all this stuff was coming from.'

So ended Moore's retirement. He turned his small volunteer environmental monitoring group into the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, enlisted scientists, launched public awareness campaigns and devoted all his considerable energies to exploring what would become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and studying the broader problem of marine plastic pollution, which is accumulating in all the world's oceans. (continue)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eco Tourists get taught a lesson.

video

Barack Hussein Obama, American Hater-in-Chief


Showing his true stripes and they ain't red and white.

Barack Obama and the CIA: why does President Pantywaist hate America so badly?
Posted By: Gerald Warner at Apr 24, 2009 Telegraph

If al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the rest of the Looney Tunes brigade want to kick America to death, they had better move in quickly and grab a piece of the action before Barack Obama finishes the job himself. Never in the history of the United States has a president worked so actively against the interests of his own people - not even Jimmy Carter.

Obama's problem is that he does not know who the enemy is. To him, the enemy does not squat in caves in Waziristan, clutching automatic weapons and reciting the more militant verses from the Koran: instead, it sits around at tea parties in Kentucky quoting from the US Constitution. Obama is not at war with terrorists, but with his Republican fellow citizens. He has never abandoned the campaign trail.

That is why he opened Pandora's Box by publishing the Justice Department's legal opinions on waterboarding and other hardline interrogation techniques. He cynically subordinated the national interest to his partisan desire to embarrass the Republicans. Then he had to rush to Langley, Virginia to try to reassure a demoralised CIA that had just discovered the President of the United States was an even more formidable foe than al-Qaeda.

"Don't be discouraged by what's happened the last few weeks," he told intelligence officers. Is he kidding? Thanks to him, al-Qaeda knows the private interrogation techniques available to the US intelligence agencies and can train its operatives to withstand them - or would do so, if they had not already been outlawed.

So, next time a senior al-Qaeda hood is captured, all the CIA can do is ask him nicely if he would care to reveal when a major population centre is due to be hit by a terror spectacular, or which American city is about to be irradiated by a dirty bomb. Your view of this situation will be dictated by one simple criterion: whether or not you watched the people jumping from the twin towers.

Obama promised his CIA audience that nobody would be prosecuted for past actions. That has already been contradicted by leftist groups with a revanchist ambition to put Republicans, headed if possible by Condoleezza Rice, in the dock. Talk about playing party politics with national security. Martin Scheinin, the United Nations special investigator for human rights, claims that senior figures, including former vice president Dick Cheney, could face prosecution overseas. Ponder that - once you have got over the difficulty of locating the United Nations and human rights within the same dimension.

President Pantywaist Obama should have thought twice before sitting down to play poker with Dick Cheney. The former vice president believes documents have been selectively published and that releasing more will prove how effective the interrogation techniques were. Under Dubya's administration, there was no further atrocity on American soil after 9/11.

President Pantywaist's recent world tour, cosying up to all the bad guys, excited the ambitions of America's enemies. Here, they realised, is a sucker they can really take to the cleaners. His only enemies are fellow Americans. Which prompts the question: why does President Pantywaist hate America so badly?



Nancy Pelosi, accessory to the fact.




Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

In Meetings, Spy Panels' Chiefs Did Not Protest, Officials Say

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 9, 2007; A01

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Congressional leaders from both parties would later seize on waterboarding as a symbol of the worst excesses of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort. The CIA last week admitted that videotape of an interrogation of one of the waterboarded detainees was destroyed in 2005 against the advice of Justice Department and White House officials, provoking allegations that its actions were illegal and the destruction was a coverup.

Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Individual lawmakers' recollections of the early briefings varied dramatically, but officials present during the meetings described the reaction as mostly quiet acquiescence, if not outright support. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," said Goss, who chaired the House intelligence committee from 1997 to 2004 and then served as CIA director from 2004 to 2006. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

Congressional officials say the groups' ability to challenge the practices was hampered by strict rules of secrecy that prohibited them from being able to take notes or consult legal experts or members of their own staffs. And while various officials have described the briefings as detailed and graphic, it is unclear precisely what members were told about waterboarding and how it is conducted. Several officials familiar with the briefings also recalled that the meetings were marked by an atmosphere of deep concern about the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack.

"In fairness, the environment was different then because we were closer to Sept. 11 and people were still in a panic," said one U.S. official present during the early briefings. "But there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, 'We don't care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.' "

Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 -- by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding -- did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent. The opposition reached a boiling point this past October, when Democratic lawmakers condemned the practice during Michael B. Mukasey's confirmation hearings for attorney general.

GOP lawmakers and Bush administration officials have previously said members of Congress were well informed and were supportive of the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques. But the details of who in Congress knew what, and when, about waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning that is the most extreme and widely condemned interrogation technique -- have not previously been disclosed.

U.S. law requires the CIA to inform Congress of covert activities and allows the briefings to be limited in certain highly sensitive cases to a "Gang of Eight," including the four top congressional leaders of both parties as well as the four senior intelligence committee members. In this case, most briefings about detainee programs were limited to the "Gang of Four," the top Republican and Democrat on the two committees. A few staff members were permitted to attend some of the briefings.

That decision reflected the White House's decision that the "enhanced interrogation" program would be treated as one of the nation's top secrets for fear of warning al-Qaeda members about what they might expect, said U.S. officials familiar with the decision. Critics have since said the administration's motivation was at least partly to hide from view an embarrassing practice that the CIA considered vital but outsiders would almost certainly condemn as abhorrent.

Information about the use of waterboarding nonetheless began to seep out after a furious internal debate among military lawyers and policymakers over its legality and morality. Once it became public, other members of Congress -- beyond the four that interacted regularly with the CIA on its most sensitive activities -- insisted on being briefed on it, and the circle of those in the know widened.

In September 2006, the CIA for the first time briefed all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, producing some heated exchanges with CIA officials, including Director Michael V. Hayden. The CIA director said during a television interview two months ago that he had informed congressional overseers of "all aspects of the detention and interrogation program." He said the "rich dialogue" with Congress led him to propose a new interrogation program that President Bush formally announced over the summer

"I can't describe that program to you," Hayden said. "But I would suggest to you that it would be wrong to assume that the program of the past is necessarily the program moving forward into the future."

Waterboarding Used on at Least 3

Waterboarding as an interrogation technique has its roots in some of history's worst totalitarian nations, from Nazi Germany and the Spanish Inquisition to North Korea and Iraq. In the United States, the technique was first used five decades ago as a training tool to give U.S. troops a realistic sense of what they could expect if captured by the Soviet Union or the armies of Southeast Asia. The U.S. military has officially regarded the tactic as torture since the Spanish-American War.

In general, the technique involves strapping a prisoner to a board or other flat surface, and then raising his feet above the level of his head. A cloth is then placed over the subject's mouth and nose, and water is poured over his face to make the prisoner believe he is drowning.

U.S. officials knowledgeable about the CIA's use of the technique say it was used on three individuals -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaida, a senior al-Qaeda member and Osama bin Laden associate captured in Pakistan in March 2002; and a third detainee who has not been publicly identified.

Abu Zubaida, the first of the "high-value" detainees in CIA custody, was subjected to harsh interrogation methods beginning in spring 2002 after he refused to cooperate with questioners, the officials said. CIA briefers gave the four intelligence committee members limited information about Abu Zubaida's detention in spring 2002, but offered a more detailed account of its interrogation practices in September of that year, said officials with direct knowledge of the briefings.

The CIA provided another briefing the following month, and then about 28 additional briefings over five years, said three U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge of the meetings. During these sessions, the agency provided information about the techniques it was using as well as the information it collected.

Lawmakers have varied recollections about the topics covered in the briefings.

Graham said he has no memory of ever being told about waterboarding or other harsh tactics. Graham left the Senate intelligence committee in January 2003, and was replaced by Rockefeller. "Personally, I was unaware of it, so I couldn't object," Graham said in an interview. He said he now believes the techniques constituted torture and were illegal.

Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.

Harman, who replaced Pelosi as the committee's top Democrat in January 2003, disclosed Friday that she filed a classified letter to the CIA in February of that year as an official protest about the interrogation program. Harman said she had been prevented from publicly discussing the letter or the CIA's program because of strict rules of secrecy.

"When you serve on intelligence committee you sign a second oath -- one of secrecy," she said. "I was briefed, but the information was closely held to just the Gang of Four. I was not free to disclose anything."

Roberts declined to comment on his participation in the briefings. Rockefeller also declined to talk about the briefings, but the West Virginia Democrat's public statements show him leading the push in 2005 for expanded congressional oversight and an investigation of CIA interrogation practices. "I proposed without success, both in committee and on the Senate floor, that the committee undertake an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation activities," Rockefeller said in a statement Friday.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Vietnam War prisoner who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, took an early interest in the program even though he was not a member of the intelligence committee, and spoke out against waterboarding in private conversations with White House officials in late 2005 before denouncing it publicly.

In May 2007, four months after Democrats regained control of Congress and well after the CIA had forsworn further waterboarding, four senators submitted written objections to the CIA's use of that tactic and other, still unspecified "enhanced" techniques in two classified letters to Hayden last spring, shortly after receiving a classified hearing on the topic. One letter was sent on May 1 by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A similar letter was sent May 10 by a bipartisan group of three senators: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In a rare public statement last month that broached the subject of his classified objections, Feingold complained about administration claims of congressional support, saying that it was "not the case" that lawmakers briefed on the CIA's program "have approved it or consented to it."


Staff writers Josh White and Walter Pincus and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


MoveOn.org moves on the attack. Americans love it.



Poll: Public thinks highly of Obama

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — His opening months in the Oval Office have fortified Barack Obama's standing with the American public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, giving him political capital for battles ahead.
As his 100th day as president approaches next Wednesday, the survey shows Obama has not only maintained robust approval ratings but also bolstered the sense that he is a strong and decisive leader who can manage the government effectively during a time of economic crisis.

"A lot of things were ignored over the last eight years, and I think it's all coming home to roost," says Benjamin Bleadon, 51, an insurance broker from Skokie, Ill., who was among those surveyed. "He has given the perception that he understands the issues and that he has taken control … and we'll just have to wait and see if it works."



Thursday, April 23, 2009

FU ACLU, FU Pentagon . The Obama Pentagon to damage US men in uniform.

The ACLU says making public additional images of detainee treatment is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse. The Obama Defense Department is going along with it.

I am buying none of it.

I am releasing the Berg video to help the idiotic public understand the meaning of the term "moral equivalency."

This is Obama's doing.

The world, according to Obama, needs to see the pentagon photos. Then let them look at the beheading of Berg for some context.

It shows what Islam is all about. It shows what Obama is all about in doing everything to tear down existing US institutions. Make no mistake now, Obama is not fit to be President of The United States of America.

Obama is out to destroy the USA as you knew it and remake it from his anti- American international leftist point of view.
__________________________

Defense Department to Release Photos Showing Detainee Treatment in Iraq, Afghanistan


The Department of Defense announced late Thursday that at least 44 photos depicting treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan will be released.

FOX

The Department of Defense -- on the heels of the firestorm over the release of Bush-era memos on CIA interrogation techniques -- said Thursday it plans to make public at least 44 photos depicting potentially abusive treatment of detainees at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision to release the photos was announced Thursday in a letter filed in a federal court in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004.

It sets a May 28 deadline for the Department of Defense to produce 21 images that the court in 2006 ordered the government to release and 23 additional related images, as well as "a substantial number of other images" in the Army's possession.

The images were part of the military's investigation of potential abuse of detainees by U.S. personnel at facilities other than Iraq Abu Ghraib, though the photos apparently aren't as shocking as those that set off a prisoner abuse scandal in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Even so, Defense officials say they worry that the new release of photos could set off a backlash in the Middle East against the United States, the Times reports.

The Bush administration had refused to disclose the images after the ACLU's request made in 2003, claiming that the public disclosure of such evidence would generate outrage and would violate U.S. obligations towards detainees under the Geneva Conventions.

The decision to release images comes on the same day that congressional aides said President Obama resisted pressure from Democrats to investigate Bush-era interrogation techniques, though Obama also has been under fire since last week from Republicans and former Bush advisers for releasing memos from 2002 and 2005 justifying the interrogation techniques used by the CIA.

The ACLU says making public additional images of detainee treatment is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.

"These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU.

According to the Times, additional disclosures will include transcripts of detainee interrogations by the CIA, a CIA inspector general's report that has been kept mostly secret, and background materials of a Justice Department internal investigation into prisoner abuse.

This video was successfully posted. It is the video of the Berg beheading. ZERO.





Bummer in Buner. Taliban preparing for end game in Pakistan?



Now I ask the hyperbolic assholes, who are in a high frequency jitter over some fresh cold water mixed with snot, what about Swat?

Do they seriously question whether or not the use of water-boarding would be effective and ethical to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Taliban?

According to this morning's Telegraph, the Obama left-wing disinformation machine is lying about the effectiveness of the practice.

Cheney had it right

...a condensed version provided to the press omitted the detail about the value of the information – a move that has incensed Mr Obama's critics and opened him up to accusations of manipulation for political purposes.

Adml Blair's original note to his staff last Thursday said "high value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaeda organisation that was attacking this country".
The memo is an embarrassment for Mr Obama because the conclusion reached by Adml Blair, who oversees the CIA and 15 other US intelligence agencies or departments, undermines a central plank of the White House argument – that the harsh techniques did not work.

Four memos, running to 126 pages, written by officials in Mr Bush's Justice Department contained explicit details of the CIA's methods of extracting information from al-Qaeda suspects between 2002 and 2005.
They revealed that emerged that the highly controversial technique of "waterboarding", a type of simulated drowning, had been used 266 times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, two senior al-Qaeda prisoners.
(more)

________________________________

April 23, 2009
Taliban Seize Vital Pakistan Area Closer to the Capital

By JANE PERLEZ NY Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pushing deeper into Pakistan, Taliban militants have established effective control of a strategically important district just 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, officials and residents said Wednesday.

The fall of the district, Buner, did not mean that the Taliban could imminently threaten Islamabad. But it was another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency and it raised new alarm about the ability of the government to fend off an unrelenting Taliban advance toward the heart of Pakistan.

Buner, home to about one million people, is a gateway to a major Pakistani city, Mardan, the second largest in North-West Frontier Province, after Peshawar.

“They take over Buner, then they roll into Mardan and that’s the end of the game,” a senior law enforcement official in North-West Frontier Province said. He asked that his name be withheld because was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The Taliban had pushed into the district from the neighboring Swat Valley, where the Pakistani Army agreed to a truce in mid-February and remains in its barracks.

On Wednesday heavily armed Taliban militants were patrolling villages, and the local police had retreated to their station houses in much of Buner, officials and residents said.

The staff members of local nongovernmental organizations have been ordered to leave, and their offices have been looted, they said. Pakistani television news channels showed Taliban fighters triumphantly carrying office equipment out of the offices of the organizations.

“They are everywhere,” one resident of Daggar, Buner’s main city, said by telephone. “There is no resistance.”

The Taliban advance has been building for weeks, with the assistance of sympathizers and even a local government official who was appointed on the recommendation of the Taliban, the senior official said.

It also comes 10 days after the government of President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the imposition of Islamic law, or Shariah, in Swat, as part of the deal with the Taliban.

A local politician, Jamsher Khan, said that people were initially determined to resist the Taliban in Buner, but that they were discouraged by the deal the government struck with the Taliban in Swat.

“We felt stronger as long we thought the government was with us,” he said by telephone, “but when the government showed weakness, we too stopped offering resistance to the Taliban.”

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was concerned that Pakistan’s government was making too many concessions to the Taliban, emboldening the militants and allowing them to spread by giving in to their demands.

“I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists,” Mrs. Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill.

She added that the deterioration of security in nuclear-armed Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”

A senior American official said Mrs. Clinton’s remarks were prompted in part by news of the Taliban takeover in Buner. The officials said that the further erosion of government authority in an area so close to the capital ought to stir concern not only in Pakistan but also among influential Pakistanis abroad.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for the second time in two weeks, reflecting the sense of alarm in the Obama administration. He was scheduled to meet with Pakistan’s top military and intelligence commanders.

The takeover of Buner (pronounced boo-NAIR) is particularly significant because the people there have tried in the past year to stand up to the Taliban by establishing small private armies to fight the militants. Last year when the militants encroached into Buner, killing policemen, the local people fought back and forced the militants out.

But with a beachhead in neighboring Swat, and a number of training camps for fresh recruits, the Taliban were able to carry out what amounted to an invasion of Buner.

“The training camps will provide waves of men coming into Buner,” the senior law enforcement official said.

The Taliban expansion into Buner has begun to raise alarm among the senior ranks of the Pakistani Army, said a Western official who was familiar with the Pakistani military.

On Wednesday, one of the highest-ranking army officers traveled from Islamabad to Peshawar and met with the officers of the 11th Corps, the army division based in Peshawar, to discuss the “overall situation in Buner,” the official said.

One of the major concerns is that from the hills of Buner the Taliban have access to the flatlands of the district of Swabi, which lead directly to the four-lane motorway that runs from Islamabad to Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province.

The Pakistani military does not have a presence in Buner, Pakistani and Western officials said. The main government authority in Buner is the police, who have become demoralized by their low pay and lack of equipment in the face of the Taliban, Pakistani police officials say.

The Taliban have set up checkpoints in a number of villages in Buner, intimidating policemen and forcing them into their police stations, residents in Daggar said by telephone.

The militants were patrolling the bazaar in Daggar, residents said. Women, who used to move freely around the bazaars, were scarcely to be seen, they said. Those who did venture out were totally covered.

One of the big attractions of Buner for people from all over Pakistan, the shrine of the Sufi saint Pir Baba, was now in the control of the militants, the senior law enforcement official said.

Last year, the villagers around the shrine kept the Taliban at bay when the militants threatened to take it over.

But in the last 10 days, the Taliban closed the shrine and said it was strictly off limits to women, the senior official said. The militants are now patrolling it.

The Taliban control in Buner came swiftly in the last few days, officials said.

The militants were helped by the actions of the commissioner of Malakand, Javed Mohammad, who is also the senior official in Swat and who was appointed on the recommendation of the Taliban, the senior law enforcement official said.

The Taliban began their assault on Buner in early April, when a battalion of the Taliban militia with heavy weaponry crossed over the hills from Swat to Buner, according to an account in the newspaper Dawn that appeared on Saturday.

The Taliban then captured three policemen and two civilians, and killed them, the newspaper said.

Infuriated by the killings, people in lower Buner and Sultanwas assembled a volunteer force and killed 17 Taliban fighters, the account said.

But soon after that, Mr. Mohammad tried to persuade the local elders to allow the Taliban to enter Buner, the newspaper said.

Soon afterward, Mr. Mohammad ordered the local armies to dissolve, the senior law enforcement official said. The order led many of those who had been willing to stand up to the Taliban to either flee or give up, the official said. Among those who are reported to have fled is Fateh Khan, a wealthy Buner businessman. Mr. Khan had been one of the main organizers and financiers of the private armies in Buner.

In a show of strength, the militants held a feast in the home of a local Taliban sympathizer two weeks ago, and since then the Taliban have fanned out into the district, the senior official said.

Pir Zubair Shah contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Mark Landler and David Stout from Washington.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's the economy stupid. The CIA investigation is blowing up in Obama's face.



Just a couple of more thoughts on this outrage. I have to believe that a significant percentage of American voters either wanted to believe in what Obama was selling or genuinely trusted him. His shuck and jive was all about a new beginning, a post- partisan, post-racial, bringing together of the American people, to focus on things that really mattered to the average person.

Those of us who saw Obama as a dangerous ideologue where ridiculed as being part of the same old same old.

Obama came into office with the top priority being the economy. That is how he won Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.

Did he get bored? Does he have some chief executive attention deficit disorder or more sinisterly is he incapable of hiding his hard left wing agenda. In either case, it will not wear well. The rope a dope only goes so far.

On another matter: rough interrogation.

The CIA is charged with gathering information to protect the country. 911 was all about the failure to protect and the consequences of that failure. Much time, money and effort has been put into making the US safer than it was before 911.

Someone will have to explain to me why this exposure was necessary at this time and what and who will it benefit. Wouldn't you want your secret clandestine service to be in a condition to keep your enemy guessing about what they know, and what they will do to get to know?

If your enemy thinks that you may use the so-called torture to extract information, does that not in fact make it unnecessary for you to use it? Was that not how nuclear deterrence was formulated? You have the nuclear weapons and keep your enemy guessing as to whether you will use them. Deterrence comes about by having an ultra-strong military and using it occasionally to let your enemies that you have it and will use it. It has the practical affect of not having to use it at all.

Announce that you will not use it and soon enough you will be forced to do so.