Friday, 29 April 2011

U.S. says Gaddafi troops raping, issued Viagra: envoys

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.S. envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council on Thursday that troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were increasingly engaging in sexual violence and some had been issued the impotency drug Viagra, diplomats said.
Several U.N. diplomats who attended a closed-door Security Council meeting on Libya told Reuters that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice raised the Viagra issue in the context of increasing reports of sexual violence by Gaddafi's troops.
"Rice raised that in the meeting but no one responded," a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. The allegation was first reported by a British newspaper.
Pfizer Inc's drug Viagra is used to treat impotence.
Diplomats said if it were true that Gaddafi's troops were being issued Viagra, it could indicate they were being encouraged by their commanders to engage in rape to terrorize the population in areas that have supported the rebels. That would constitute a war crime.
Several diplomats said Rice provided no evidence for the Viagra allegation, which they said was made in an attempt to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gaddafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.
"She spoke of reports of soldiers getting Viagra and raping," a diplomat said. "She spoke of Gaddafi's soldiers targeting children, and other atrocities."
Rice's statement, diplomats said, was aimed principally at countries like India, Russia and China, which have grown increasingly skeptical of the effectiveness of the NATO-led air strikes, which they fear have turned the conflict into a protracted civil war that will cause many civilian deaths.
Most council members, diplomats said, had expected Gaddafi's government to collapse quickly. They said the frustration felt by India, Russia and China would likely grow if the war dragged on.
The use of rape as a weapon during wartime has received increasing attention at the United Nations. Last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a special envoy on sexual violence during armed conflict, Margot Wallstrom.
Earlier this month, Wallstrom chided the Security Council for failing to mention sexual violence in two recent resolutions on Libya, despite having made the subject a priority.
Wallstrom said at the time that reports of rape in Libya remained unconfirmed but she cited the highly publicized case of Eman al-Obaidi, the woman who burst into a journalists' hotel in Tripoli last month saying she had been raped by pro-government militiamen.
The International Criminal Court is already investigating whether Gaddafi's government committed war crimes in its violent crackdown against demonstrators who demanded greater freedoms. The crackdown sparked a rebellion that has turned into a civil war.
The U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment.

Man Accused of Smuggling Nearly 4,000 Snakehead Fish

"Fishzilla" Smuggled to NY: DA

A Brooklyn seafood importer has been accused of illegally importing nearly 4,000 snakehead fish, a predatory freshwater creature known as "fishzilla" that has been outlawed in New York state since 2004.
Yong Hao Wu, a co-owner of Howei Trading, Inc., of Brooklyn, faces up to four years in prison if convicted on charges of felony commercialization of wildlife and importing fish dangerous to indigenous fish populations.
Snakeheads are air-breathers and can travel short distances over land, writhing their body and fins until they reach a suitable aquatic habitat, according to prosecutors.
On Feb. 13, 2010, a state Department of Environmental Conservation officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport inspected a shipment of 353 fish imported by Howei Trading that had been declared as Chinese black sleeper fish, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
The 190-pound shipment, which had arrived from China on EVA Air, was allowed to continue on to Howei Trading under mobile surveillance.
At the Brooklyn warehouse, Department of Environmental Conservation officers seized the shipment, and found the fish were actually live snakeheads, according to Brown. The DEC officers also found a tank containing 82 additional snakehead fish. 
Prosecutors say the 3,889 fish Wu imported between Jan. 24, 2010 and Feb. 10, 2010 had also been declared as Chinese black sleeper fish but were actually snakeheads.
Snakeheads, native to Asia, are considered a Chinese and Korean delicacy, and are often intended to be used as food.
According to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, the imported fish were often purchased as pets and later released into New York's waterways, damaging or destroying native fish species.
"With no natural predators in the U.S., these voracious feeders out-compete native species, disrupting both native waterways and the commercial fishing industry dependent on native species," the DA's office said.
Wu is being held pending arraignment. The DA could not immediately say whether he had an attorney.
taken from


The hip, transparent and social media-loving Obama administration is showing its analog roots. And maybe even some hypocrisy highlights.
White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news.
The Chronicle's Carla Marinucci - who, like many contemporary reporters, has a phone with video capabilities on her at all times - pulled out a small video camera last week and shot some protesters interrupting an Obama fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel.
She was part of a "print pool" - a limited number of journalists at an event who represent their bigger hoard colleagues - which White House press officials still refer to quaintly as "pen and pad" reporting.
But that's a pretty Flintstones concept of journalism for an administration that presents itself as the Jetsons. Video is every bit a part of any journalist's tool kit these days as a functioning pen that doesn't leak through your pocket.
In fact, Carla and her reporting colleague, Joe Garofoli, founded something called "Shaky Hand Productions" - the semi-pro, sometimes vertiginous use of a Flip or phone camera by Hearst reporters to catch more impromptu or urgent moments during last year's California gubernatorial race that might otherwise be missed by TV.
The name has become its own brand; often politicians even ask if anyone from Shaky Hand will show at their event. For Carla, Joe and reporters at other Hearst newsrooms where Shaky Hand has taken hold, this was an appropriate dive into use of other media by traditional journalists catering to audiences who expect their news delivered in all modes and manners.
That's the world we live in and the President of the United States claims to be one of its biggest advocates.
Just the day before Carla's Stone Age infraction, Mr. Obama was at Facebook seated next to its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and may as well have been wearing an "I'm With Mark" t-shirt for all the mutual admiration going back and forth.
"The main reason we wanted to do this is," Obama said of his appearance, "first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you've got citizens who are informed, who are engaged."
Informed, in other words, through social and other digital media where videos of news are posted.
The President and his staffers deftly used social media like Twitter and Facebook in his election campaign and continue to extol the virtues and value. Except, apparently, when it comes to the press.
So what's up with the White House? We can't say because neither Press Secretary Jay Carney nor anyone from his staff would speak on the record.
Other sources confirmed that Carla was vanquished, including Chronicle editor Ward Bushee, who said he was "informed that Carla was removed as a pool reporter." Which shouldn't be a secret in any case because it's a fact that affects the newsgathering of our largest regional paper (and sfgate)and how local citizens get their information.
What's worse: more than a few journalists familiar with this story are aware of some implied threats from the White House of additional and wider punishment if Carla's spanking became public. Really? That's a heavy hand usually reserved for places other than the land of the free.
But bravery is a challenge, in particular for White House correspondents, most of whom are seasoned and capable journalists. They live a little bit in a gilded cage where they have access to the most powerful man in the world but must obey the rules whether they make sense or not.
CBS News reporter, Mark Knoller, has publicly protested the limited press access to Obama fundraisers, calling the policy "inconsistent." "It's no way to do business," wrote Politico's Julie Mason, "especially [for] a candidate who prides himself on transparency."
A 2009 blog by the White House Director of New Media states that "President Obama is committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history."
Not last week.
Mason referred to the San Francisco St. Regis protest as "a highly newsworthy event" where "reporters had to rely on written pool reports..."
Except, thanks to Carla's quick action with her camera, they didn't.
I get that all powerful people and institutions want to control their image and their message. That's part of their job, to create a mythology that allows them to continue being powerful.
But part of the press' job is to do the opposite, to strip away the cloaks and veneers. By banning her, and by not acknowledging how contemporary media works, the White House did not just put Carla in a cage but more like one of those stifling pens reserved for calves on their way to being veal.
Carla cannot do her job to the best of her ability if she can't use all the tools available to her as a journalist. The public still sees the videos posted by protesters and other St. Regis attendees, because the technology is ubiquitous. But the Obama Administration apparently wants to give the distinct advantage to citizen witnesses at the expense of professionals.
Why? Well, they won't tell us.
Some White House reporters are grumbling almost as much as the Administration about Carla's "breaking the rules." I can understand how they'd be irritated. If you didn't get the video because you understood you weren't supposed to, why should someone else get it who isn't following the longstanding civilized table manners?
The White House Press Correspondents' Association pool reporting guidelines warn about "no hoarding" of information and also say, "pool reports must be filed before any online story or blog." While uploading her video probably was the best way to file her report, Carla may have technically busted the letter of that law.
But the guidelines also say, "Print poolers can snap pictures or take video. They are not obliged to share these pictures...but can make them available if they so choose."
Then what guidelines is the White House applying here? Again, we don't know.
What the Administration should have done is to use this incident to precipitate a reasonable conversation about changing their 1950's policies into rules more suited to 2011. Dwight Eisenhower was the last President who let some new media air into the room when he lifted the ban on cameras at press conferences in 1952.
"We've come full circle here," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism told me today. "A newspaper reporter is being punished because she took pictures with a moving camera. We live in a world where there are no longer distinctions. The White House is trying to live by 20th century distinctions."
The President's practice not just with transparency but in other dealings with the press has not been tracking his words, despite the cool glamour and easy conversation that makes him seem so much more open than the last guy.
It was his administration that decided to go after New York Times reporter James Risen to get at his source in a book he wrote about the CIA. For us here in SF who went through the BALCO case and other fisticuffs with the George W. Bush Attorney General's prosecutors, this is deja vu.
Late today, there were hints that the White House might be backing off the Carla Fatwa.
Barack Obama sold himself successfully as a fresh wind for the 21st century. In important matters of communication, technology, openness and the press, it's not too late for him to demonstrate that.

Man beheads girlfriend

It was a college romance with a horrific ending. On Wednesday, a student of St Xavier’s College, Ranchi, was beheaded by her boyfriend inside the campus in the heart of the city. Bijendra Kumar alias Golu, 23, an engineering diploma student of Jamshedpur, used a small dagger to severe the head of Kh
usbu, 18, an intermediate student.  He was nabbed by students and security guards. Khusbu belonged to Tatilsilwai on the outskirts of Ranchi, but she visited her uncle’s house in Jamshedpur’s Sonari locality. “The duo apparently met in Jamshedpur and had an affair, which might have turned sour,” said city SP Sambhu Thakur.
Kumar’s family in Jamshedpur had no information about the crime. When HT contacted the family, his mother Yamini Devi said,
“He left the house around 8.30am for the institute and we haven’t heard from him yet.”
When briefed about the incident, Yamini broke down. She said, “We came to know about his affair with Khusbu two months ago when she ran away from her house and came to Jamshedpur to marry my son.” Khusbu’s uncle Rajendra Singh had then intervened and thrashed Kumar for inciting his minor niece to elope. Police said they were trying to find out the reasons behind the murder.
Eyewitnesses said Khusbu had come to college with her grandmother to take her exams. Kumar had followed her, and got into an altercation with her grandmother. “... He attacked her as soon as she came out of the exam hall,” said an eyewitness.
Kumar was thrashed before police took him and sent him to hospital. “We were in love for the last five years, but our parents did not allow us to unite, so we decided to die together. After killing her, I was about to kill myself when they caught me,” said Kumar.
“There cannot be anything more brutal than this,” said Nicholas Tete, principal of St Xavier’s College.
by B Vijay Murty taken from

Next Giant Leap for Space Tourism: A Trip Around the Moon

Space tourism has already reached low-Earth orbit, and now the industry is shooting for the moon.
After helping to send seven private citizens on eight trips to the International Space Station -- starting with Dennis Tito, who became the world's first space tourist on April 28, 2001 -- the Virginia-based company Space Adventures is mapping out a tourist trip around the moon.
Despite a nine-figure ticket price, the firm has already signed up a passenger for a maiden moon journey. And if it inks a second customer soon, the mission could launch within three to five years, company officials say.
"We need that second contract for the mission to go ahead," said Space Adventures president Tom Shelley. "But we're confident that we'll be able to make an announcement about that mission later this year."
A commercial moon shot
Space Adventures arranges flights for its clients aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft, workhorse vehicles that have been plying the heavens since the 1960s. [Photos: The First Space Tourists]
On the circumlunar trip, customers will travel aboard a Soyuz around the far side of the moon and back -- a journey of seven or eight days, Shelley said. The spacecraft won't land on the lunar surface, but passengers will still get an experience that has been limited so far to a few dozen astronauts with NASA's Apollo program. [Giant Leaps: Top Milestones of Human Spaceflight]
"You're going to get to within 100 kilometers [62 miles] of the moon's surface, so you're going to get a really close-up view of the moon and that incredible Earthrise as well," Shelley told "There are only 24 people who have seen that." [Gallery: Our Changing Moon]
Early into this long trek, the Soyuz will meet up in low-Earth orbit with a separately launched unmanned rocket. This booster will contain a propulsion system, helping the spacecraft get all the way to the moon.
The Soyuz may meet up with the rocket and head toward the moon immediately, or it may stop at the International Space Station before the rocket rendezvous, according to Shelley.
"Those are the two options," he said. "I can't say which one it would be at this stage. There are a number of factors that go into that decision."
Putting the money down
The moon mission will be different from Space Adventures' one-tourist-at-a-time trips to the space station. The three-seat Soyuz will carry two paying passengers to the moon, with the third seat occupied by a Russian mission commander, Shelley said.
And then there's the price. Space tourists reportedly paid between $20 million and $35 million to get to the station.
"It would be more, considerably more," Shelley said of the moon mission. The per-seat price would be "in the range of $150 million."
One customer overcame the sticker shock and signed his name on the dotted line. That deal was sealed last year, Shelley said. The moon mission could launch within five years if passenger number two signs on soon, he added.
"It's a different destination that's pushing the boundaries a little bit further, and it should be a great event when it happens," Shelley said.

FBI Raids Apartment of Alleged King’s Speech Uploader

The FBI has raided the Los Angeles apartment of a Screen Actors Guild member the bureau believes was first to upload the Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech as well as Black Swan, and other in-theater-only films to the Pirate Bay in January, according to interviews and sealed court records obtained by
The Tuesday raid of Wes DeSoto’s apartment came months after the guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences both lauded The King’s Speech with top-acting and top-picture awards.
The authorities are also investigating whether there is a link between DeSoto and the notorious Pirate Bay pre-release movie-uploading group TiMPE, according to a sealed FBI affidavit obtained by In the warrant request to search DeSoto’s apartment, FBI special agent Thomas Brenneis wrote Magistrate Suzanne H. Segal of Los Angeles that the bureau was seeking “records, documents, programs, applications or materials relating to ‘TiMPE’ and ‘’”
DeSoto, who recently played a small role in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, said in a telephone interview he has no affiliation with TiMPE, and declined further comment.
“I’m nobody in the online file sharing world. This investigation is excessive and a waste of tax dollars,” he said.

Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles declined comment. The FBI in Los Angeles was not immediately prepared to comment.
The bureau’s involvement in the case, according to the affidavit, commenced in February when Larry Hahn, the Motion Picture Association of America director of content protection, “advised” the FBI that five “feature motion pictures” were uploaded to the Pirate Bay days before.
“Each of these movies was high-quality, and believed to have been movie-screener versions provided to members of the Screen Actors Guild,” the FBI’s Brenneis wrote. “Each of the movies had been released for theatrical viewing in the previous three months, before having been uploaded to, but none of the movies had been sold or distributed publicly in the DVD or video-streaming formats.”
The MPAA declined comment.
Threat Level obtained the affidavit on condition that it not publish the 34-page document in its entirety.
DeSoto is suspected of using the Pirate Bay handle mf34inc to upload the films in late January. No charges have been filed.
The affidavit references the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which makes it a crime, punishable by up to three years in prison, for releasing a work online that is “being prepared for commercial distribution.”
The authorities pinpointed DeSoto as the alleged culprit, because the screeners he viewed contained unique watermarks. What’s more, the guild had snail-mailed traceable iTunes codes to its members, who could use the code to access the screener movies.
Because pre-release uploading is perceived as an artform on the Pirate Bay, some commenters on Pirate Bay began questioning the authenticity of Black Swan, saying it was a “fake,” the affidavit said.
But mf34inc commented back that “SAG now sends out iTunes download codes for screens,” and “I’m a SAG member and thought I’d share these,” according to the affidavit.
According to the affidavit, Paramount Pictures had inserted “specific identifying marks” for the screener The Fighter and discovered it linked to mf34inc on Pirate Bay, according to the affidavit. Other movies linked to that handle on Jan. 27 included 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan.
Deluxe Webwatch, a Paramount Pictures contractor, continued monitoring the Pirate Bay for additional uploads from mf34inc, according to the affidavit. The next day, Rabbit Hole was being uploaded, and Deluxe Webwatch captured the IP address of the seeder, according to the affidavit.
With a subpoena, the authorities demanded Time Warner Cable–Road Runner tell them who was the account-holder of the detected IP address, and the authorities obtained a warrant to search the premises. The agents seized a desktop computer from DeSoto’s apartment.
By David Kravets taken from

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Apple's Steve Jobs Tries to Calm iPhone tracking fiasco

Apple Inc. is scaling back how much information its iPhones store about where they have been and said it will stop collecting such data when consumers request it, as the company tries to quell concerns it was tracking iPhone owners.
But Apple's statements, after a week of silence on the growing controversy, raised new questions and criticism about its data-handling practices. Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas) said Apple apparently "lied" to him and another lawmaker last year when it said its phones don't collect and transmit location-based data when location services such as mapping are turned off.
Apple said Wednesday it would fix software "bugs" that let each phone build a database of locations stretching back months, even when related services are disabled by the user.
Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave, was unapologetic in his defense of his company's actions. "Your precise location is never transmitted to Apple," he said in an interview.
Rather, Mr. Jobs said, Apple gathers information from the phone about nearby cellphone towers and local wireless, or Wi-Fi, networks. Apple uses that information to supplement the Global Positioning System already employed on most phones.
Apple and Google Inc., which makes the key software for Android phones, are facing scrutiny from lawmakers and consumers for the way they gather and handle data on the location of smartphones.
Researchers last week said Apple's iPhones store unencrypted databases containing months of location information. Tests conducted by the Journal and independent researcher Samy Kamkar found these databases were updated—and some information sent to Apple—even when the location services were turned off.
That contradicts what Apple told Rep. Barton in a letter last July. "When a member of Congress asks a straightforward question, reputable members of the business community should give a straightforward answer," Mr. Barton said in an interview. "Apparently, they lied to us."
In the interview, Mr. Jobs said Apple in recent days had discovered software "bugs" in how the phones capture and store data. "We were surprised by them and it took us a few days to figure out what was going on," he said.
Beyond the information stored on the phone, the Journal has reported that iPhones, Android phones and some personal computers regularly transmit information about their locations to Apple and Google. Apple said Wednesday an individual can't be located using the Wi-Fi and tower data and that the data are anonymous. It said it discloses the collection practices in privacy policies.
The company said it would release software in coming weeks that would reduce how much location data are stored on the phone to about seven days. The new software will delete the data when location services are turned off. In the next major release of its mobile operating system, the database would also be encrypted, Apple said.
Mr. Jobs said Apple planned to testify at an upcoming congressional hearing. Google said it would testify at a hearing set for May 10.
Other lawmakers said they weren't satisfied with Apple's response. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he still has questions about what Apple was doing and what it told users.
"This has raised larger questions of how the locations of mobile devices are tracked and shared by companies like Apple and Google, and whether federal laws provide adequate protection as technology has advanced," Mr. Franken said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed concern in a separate letter, saying it was essential to have "full and accurate information about the privacy risks" as Congress considers updates to federal privacy laws.
Among other makers of cellphone software queried by Congress, Nokia Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have said they only enable location services with a user's consent. Officials at Research In Motion Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. didn't respond.
A Google spokesman said it collects information anonymously and provides "users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location" on Android phones.
In a press release, Apple said the cellphone towers it uses to establish a phone's location could be more than 100 miles from a user's phone. But tests conducted for the Journal by Mr. Kamkar, the researcher, found the addresses of nearby Wi-Fi networks can easily be used to establish a phone's location within 100 feet.
Apple disclosed Wednesday it is using the information to build a "traffic database" that within a few years will offer traffic-congestion information to iPhone users. Google already uses location data, which Android phones collect every few seconds, to provide such a service.
Other applications routinely use—and share—location data. The Journal reported in December that some of the most popular apps widely share location data and other personal information with outside companies. Twenty-six of 51 popular iPhone apps tested by the Journal shared their location with outsiders.
Scott Forstall, Apple senior vice president of iPhone software, said the company doesn't allow apps, including its own, to use location data without the user's consent.
He said the company allows users to turn location features on and off by app and shows them which ones have used location in the last 24 hours. "We are vigilant about making our location use completely transparent," he said.
Apple acknowledged it was partly responsible for users' concerns because it has not provided enough education about these issues. "We're going to start thinking about that right away and the time to do it is when it's on people's minds," said Mr. Jobs. He added other phone makers needed to make those efforts too.
taken from

Jimmy Carter says NKorea wants North-South summit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il wants direct talks with South Korea's leader - an offer unlikely to be accepted until Pyongyang takes responsibility for violence that killed 50 South Koreans last year.
A summit would be a major step toward smoothing over animosity fueled by the bloodshed, and a personal call from Kim is notable, though North Korea regularly pushes for the resumption of aid-for-nuclear-disarmament talks. It generally wants to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, however.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has also floated the possibility of one-on-one talks with Kim - but only if the North takes responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang and an artillery attack on a South Korean island.
Carter told reporters hours after he returned from the North that he and three former European leaders didn't have a hoped-for meeting with Kim during their three-day trip.
But he said that Kim sent them a written personal message as they were leaving, saying he's prepared for a summit meeting with the South Korean president at any time. Carter said North Korean officials expressed deep regret for the deaths on the South Korean warship Cheonan and for the civilians killed in the island shelling.
He added, however, that it was clear that "they will not publicly apologize and admit culpability for the Cheonan incident." North Korea denies sinking the ship, despite a South Korea-led international investigation that blamed the country. It says it was provoked into the island shelling by South Korean live fire drills.
Carter is well-respected in North Korea for his role in helping work out a 1994 nuclear deal that may have averted a war. But officials in Seoul and Washington have put little stock in his ability to engineer a breakthrough this time in nuclear talks.
It has been more than two years since nuclear negotiators from the United States and neighboring nations last met with the North in an effort to persuade it to abandon its atomic weapons programs.
Since then, the North has conducted missile and nuclear tests and proudly unveiled a new nuclear facility that could give it another way to make atomic bombs.
The United States says it won't push forward on nuclear talks until South Korea is satisfied that the North has taken responsibility for last year's violence.
Carter said the goal of his visit is to contribute to greater understanding between North Korea and the outside world, but that it's up to officials to make real progress.
The former American president, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson met with the North's foreign minister and the president of the country's parliament.
When asked why he thought Kim Jong Il did not meet with the group, Carter noted that the South's president did not grant their request for a meeting either.
"We don't question the decision of a head of state about the priorities they set for their own schedule," Carter said.
Carter didn't address the case of Jun Young Su, a Korean-American being held in North Korea, reportedly on charges of carrying out missionary activity. He had said earlier he would not raise the case, though the former president flew to North Korea last year to free another American jailed in Pyongyang.
Carter started Thursday's news conference by offering condolences for those killed in last year's attacks, an apparent nod to criticism that he had glossed over the deaths in past dealings with the North.
But he also likely angered many in Seoul and Washington by criticizing their food aid policies.
Carter said that for the United States and South Korea "to deliberately withhold food aid to the North Korean people because of political or military issues not related is really indeed a human rights violation."
South Korea links aid resumption to progress in ties with North Korea. It says better ties largely depend on Pyongyang taking responsibility for past attacks.
Washington says it's still considering North Korean requests for food, which officials say are evaluated on the basis of need, resources availability and the ability to monitor food distribution.
Years of poor harvests, a lack of investment in agriculture and political isolation have left the North severely vulnerable to starvation.
Former Irish President Robinson said many in the North need help now. She said the country is facing a "matter of utter life and death urgency."

Marines get trained on accepting gay recruits

SAN DIEGO – If a Marine spots two men in his battalion kissing off-duty at a shopping mall, he should react as if he were seeing a man and woman. If he turns on the television news to see a fellow Marine dressed as a civilian and marching in a parade with a banner that reads, "Support Gays and Lesbians in the Military!" he should accept it as a free right of expression.
Prescriptions for those possible scenarios are being played out at Marine bases as the military prepares to allow gays to openly serve, ending a 17-year-old policy commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell." Training for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines began early this year and is expected to finish by summer's end. The repeal goes into effect 60 days after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that lifting the ban won't hurt the military's ability to fight.
"These changes are about policy," states briefing material for Marine instructors. "The policy is about adherence to orders and behavior, and not about beliefs."
The latest round of training material asks Marines to consider their reactions to a wide range of scenarios, from seeing a member "hanging around" a gay bar to hearing locker-room jokes from others who refuse to shower in front of gays. Members of the 1st Marine Logistics Group report to class Thursday at Camp Pendleton.
There is nothing wrong with "hanging around" a gay bar, the materials state. The officer who witnesses the loud locker-room banter aimed at gays and lesbians should remind the Marines any discrimination or harassment is inappropriate.
For those who oppose the new policy, the Marine Corps says it doesn't expect anyone to change their personal beliefs. Still, everyone must follow orders.
"You remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held moral or religious beliefs," the training material states.
A top-notch recruiter who opposes the new policy cannot refuse a promising applicant on grounds of sexual orientation but might be considered for another assignment and, at the discretion of the Navy secretary, may be granted early discharge.
Chaplains who preach at base chapels that homosexuality is a sin are entitled to express their religious beliefs during worship.
The Marines expect to finish training on the new policy by June 1, Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, testified in Congress earlier this month.
Amos testified last year that permitting gays to openly serve could disrupt smaller combat units and distract leaders from preparing for battle. When he appeared this month before the House Armed Services Committee, he said he had been looking for problems that might arise under the new policy and hadn't found any "recalcitrant pushback."
"There has not been the anxiety over it from the forces in the field," he said.
By ELLIOT SPAGAT taken from

Australia to be port of call for Chinese navy

CHINESE warships could be heading to Australian ports this year after the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, took "a few small steps" towards military transparency and co-operation with President Hu Jintao.
Ms Gillard told the Herald last night her key meeting with Mr Hu was "friendly in demeanour".
Her inaugural visit to Beijing as prime minister appears to have bookended two years of tensions which began with China's taking umbrage with the 2009 Australian defence white paper, which it believed painted China as a military threat.
Western defence analysts are also concerned about the potential for a maritime accident triggering war, given China's increasingly assertive conduct and the absence of the kind of maritime incident protocols that defused incidents between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Ms Gillard said neither Mr Hu nor the Premier, Wen Jiabao, raised any concerns about Australia's military relationships with the US, or its allies, and nor did she raise concerns about the People's Liberation Army.
Instead, Ms Gillard and Mr Hu yesterday moved to build greater military co-operation including livefire exercises at sea and Chinese warships dock in Australia.
"[We] indicated a preparedness to keep discussing defence co-operation," Ms Gillard told the Herald in an interview last night. "We have indicated we are open to ships visiting Australian ports [and] there's some prospect that there will be some visiting before the end of the year.
"It's a few small steps on a journey to better understanding each other's military perspectives.
''Steps that enable us to better understand methods of organisation, protocols for working, are good things and obviously joint exercising assists with that."
Yesterday chief executives of a dozen of China's biggest resource buyers and investors joined Ms Gillard for lunch at the Australian embassy, where discussion focused on economics, investment and the resource trade.
Guests included Lou Jiwei, the head of China's sovereign wealth fund, which reportedly will soon receive a $US200 billion top-up from the government. Also present were the heads of two of China's biggest oil companies, five of its biggest metals and mining companies and two of its biggest banks.
Ms Gillard said the gathering showed strong interest in building rail and port infrastructure necessary to get Australian mining investments off the ground. They also raised concerns about skills shortages at mines under construction, and red tape at the state level and at the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Today Ms Gillard flies to London to attend the royal wedding.

FBI send warning of new wave of cybercrime emanating from China

The FBI sent out a warning this week about a new wave of cybercrime emanating from China after computer thieves stole $11 million from U.S. businesses.
“The FBI has observed a trend in which cybercriminals - using the compromised online banking credentials of U.S. businesses - sent unauthorized wire transfers to Chinese economic and trade companies located near the Russian border,” the notice stated.
The alert, dated April 26, was first reported by the security website Dark Reading.
Computer security specialist Jeffrey Carr said the cyberfraud is “an entirely new tactic of using Chinese companies as an endpoint in ripping off U.S. businesses.”
“Wire transfers directly made to Chinese companies by an attacker is an unusually aggressive tactic and probably shouldn’t be taken at face value,” he said.
The FBI said that since March 2010 the bureau had uncovered 20 cases involving the compromise of online banking credentials of small- to medium-sized U.S. businesses.
The credentials were used by criminals for wire transfers of money to Chinese companies. The companies were not identified by name, but most Chinese companies are wholly or partly state-owned.
“As of April 2011, the total attempted fraud amounts to approximately $20 million; the actual victim losses are $11 million,” the alert stated.
The FBI notice is unusually detailed and indicates that Chinese hackers, many of whom have been linked to Chinese government entities, are engaged in cybercrime, in addition to widespread intelligence gathering and theft of data by computer.
The Chinese bank fraud was done by either “phishing” - obtaining confidential passwords by deceit - or through prompting employees of a targeted company to visit a malicious website that then infects their computers and takes them over remotely. In one case, a target computer hard drive was erased by hackers to stymie investigators, the FBI said.
The malware collected the user’s bank transfer data, which then is used to make unauthorized transfers of funds to intermediary banks in New York and, finally, to “the Chinese economic and trade company bank account.”
“The intended recipients of the international wire transfers are economic and trade companies located in the Heilongjiang province in the Peoples Republic of China,” the notice said.
The companies appear to be official provincial government firms that use official names of Chinese port cities. The cities include Raohe, Fuyuan, Jixi City, Xunke, Tongjiang and Dongning, and the company names include “economic and trade,” “trade” and “LTD.”
The malicious software involved Zeus, and Spybot, which secretly steal passwords and bank transfer codes.
The FBI warned banks to notify customers about the Northeast China bank fraud in the designated cities and to closely monitor fund transfers there. The bureau said it could not identify the hackers and did not know whether the Chinese companies were the final deposit point for the stolen funds.
Missile-warning satellite
The Air Force is set to launch the first of a new generation of four infrared satellites capable of detecting hot spots such as missile launches from thousands of miles in space.
The first GEO-1 Space-Based Infrared System satellite, called SBIRS, will be launched May 6 atop an Atlas V booster from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Brig. Gen. Roger Teague, the Air Force’s space-based infrared systems director, said the launch is “the dawn of a new era in persistent overhead surveillance.”
The maneuverable, $1.2 billion satellite is the first of four new high-tech sensors. It will conduct orbit tests and six engine firings before reaching geosynchronous orbit 26,199 miles above Earth.
Its mission from launch until it is fully operational in October 2012 will be to watch for missile launches around the world. It also is part of U.S. missile-defense systems and will provide what the military calls “technical intelligence and battle-space awareness” around the world.
“The SBIRS system will remain the gold standard for missile warning,” Gen. Teague said in a conference call with reporters, noting that the infrared sensors are “the backbone of the important mission that we do, that our nation needs to provide that early warning of hostile missile intent and threats around the world for our nation and our allies.”
Gen. Teague said GEO-1 is “so much more sensitive” than other satellites used for missile warning, including the Defense Support Program constellation of satellites.
“We can see much more, much earlier, much sooner … many dimmer targets than we ever could before,” he said, declining to elaborate because of concerns about classified information.
The new satellite also will provide new power for spying on battlefields and on the technical specifications of foreign missiles and other heat-producing systems, he said.
“It’s how fast can I process information that the sensor is detecting, and how quickly can I disseminate that information to battlefield commanders? That’s the real power of this system and the capabilities that we’ll have,” Gen. Teague said.
Manufactured by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, GEO-1 uses sophisticated scanning sensors. It will monitor “missile launches and natural phenomena across the Earth, while the staring sensor will be used to observe smaller areas of interest with enhanced sensitivity,” the company said in a statement.
IED dogs of war
The Pentagon is developing a new dog for the battlefield. This canine will be able to sniff out hard-to-detect, buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are increasingly maiming and killing troops in Afghanistan.
For currently deployed dogs - and electronic sensors - such fertilizer-based homemade explosives are difficult to find.
The Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) decided to train its own specialized kennel of sniffers before sending them to war in September.
“The JIEDDO dog program is solely focused on the current threat in Afghanistan to detect homemade explosives off leash,” spokeswoman Irene Smith told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.
“There are other military working dogs who are trained off a [Defense Department] scent list, allowing them to be deployed around the world. JIEDDO’s dog program is specifically tailored to [Afghanistan] … This is a unique capability from the other military working-dogs programs.”
The agency is working with a number of breeds in addition to the ubiquitous, human-friendly Labrador retriever.
“There is a debate on which dog is best for detecting explosives,” Ms. Smith said.
Sending super dogs to Afghanistan is one of several moves JIEDDO is making in response to an increase in the number of pressure-activated IEDS buried around villages by the Taliban to attack Marines and soldiers approaching on foot.
China’s Fiji gambit
A State Department cable made public this week highlight’s China’s efforts to co-opt the government of the remote South Pacific island of Fiji using what the cable called “checkbook diplomacy.”
The 2009 cable quoted an official from Fiji’s military regime as saying the island nation, located some 1,700 miles from Australia and 1,200 miles from New Zealand, is viewed by the Chinese as “an important partner, noting that China valued Fiji as a useful transit point and for its proximity to important shipping lanes.”
The official said China has wide influence in Fiji because of its assistance, trade and investment ties and noted that “the Chinese government was providing Fijian government officials with training on a range of skills in China,” including “training military officials, a practice that began after the 2006 coup.”
By Bill Gertz taken from\

The Fed Will Make Sure Obama Wins in 2012: Strategist

As we approach next year's presidential elections, the chances of President Barack Obama being ousted by a rival from either side of the political divide are low, according to Thanos Papasavvas, the head of currency management at Investec Asset Management.
Barack Obama

“History is very much on the side of the incumbent President and unless we have a double-dip recession with a significant increase in unemployment I don’t believe Obama will lose 2012,” Papasavvas said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.
“On the economic side, any signs of a deteriorating economic environment will see the Fed enacting QE3 (the third round of quantitative easing, or creating money) and hence indirectly reducing the probability of the economy derailing Obama,” Papasavvas added.
With the Republicans divided and no major rival yet to emerge, Papasavvas believes the American right wing will keep its powder dry for 2016 when four years of fiscal austerity will play into their hands.
“With no credible Republican heavyweight to face Obama, even those who have indicated their intent to run like Mitt Romney are unlikely to burn significant political or actual capital for 2012 preferring instead to wait for the 2016 election,” said Papasavvas.
Strong Dollar Policy?
John Snow, the US treasury Secretary during George W. Bush’s first term as president, spent a lot of time talking up his strong dollar credentials.
The problem for Snow was that no one believed a word he said as he stood by and allowed the period of benign neglect in which the dollar remained weak as the US economy recovered from September 11 and the collapse of the dotcom bubble.
Now Tim Geithner is spending a lot of time talking up his strong dollar credentials and the market is beginning to think the current US Treasury Secretary is beginning to sound an awful lot like Snow during the first term of the Bush administration.
“The market has been interpreting the Geithner comments on the dollar at face value, this is now changing as the evidence of a weaker dollar makes people skeptical about rhetoric,” Papasavvas said.
“What Tim Geithner actually means is that he wants to protect the purchasing power of Americans, not intervene to make the dollar rise against foreign currencies,” he added.
“It must be remembered that the US is a domestically-biased economy. The big costs like healthcare are not exposed to a weak dollar. What Geithner is trying to do is stop domestic inflation that will be felt by the average American,” he added.
By: Patrick Allen taken from

Miss USA Sexually Molested by TSA

Ms. Castillo was subjected to the groping after she refused to enter a naked body scanner at the airport in Dallas, Texas.
In late 2010, the TSA put in place new procedure guidelines instructing agents to use their “palms and fingers” to “probe” airline customer bodies for hidden weapons, including breasts and other private parts.
On April 15, CNN reported that people who complain about naked body scanners and intrusive airport pat-downs will be investigated as terrorists and criminals.
Lawmakers around the country have introduced legislation designed to rollback the pat-downs after the public and airline employees voiced complaints. In March, legislation was introduced into the Texas House of Representatives directly challenging the authority of the TSA in airports within the state and specifically aimed at criminalizing the use of naked body scanners and enhanced pat-downs.
In November of 2010, chief deputy DA and incoming DA of San Mateo County Steve Wagstaffe told the Alex Jones Show his office will prosecute TSA employees who engage in lewd and lascivious behavior while conducting pat-downs at the San Francisco International Airport. Wagstaffe told Alex Jones that county police will be sent into the San Francisco International Airport. If they witness TSA employees engaged in criminal conduct, they will make arrests and the DA’s office will prosecute.
In January, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura launched a lawsuit against the TSA for subjecting him to humiliating pat-downs as he traveled for his work as the host of the popular TruTV show Conspiracy Theory. Ventura said that he would “no longer be forced by the TSA to prove he is not a criminal or terrorist.”
Earlier this week, Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, said the TSA had the authority to conduct an intrusive pat-down on a six year old girl. “Parts of the pat down, in another setting, clearly constituted the kind of inappropriate touching that, if done by anyone else, would have resulted in charges of child abuse and sexual assault. The pat down even caused the little girl to cry, her parents later said in televised interviews,” writes J. D. Heyes.
In November, an Alex Jones employee related her experience with the TSA in Denver. Her children were subjected to the intrusive pat-down procedure.
Castillo is currently a spokeswoman for Neutrogena and has appeared on a number of television shows, including the ABC Family reality television series, America’s Prom Queen.
by Kurt Nimmo taken from

Sony faces global legal action over data theft; shares fall

TOKYO/WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – Sony Corp could face legal action across the globe after it delayed disclosing a security breach of its popular PlayStation Network, infuriating gamers and sending the firm's shares down nearly 5 percent in Tokyo Thursday.
Sony shut down the network on April 19 after discovering the breach, one of the biggest online data infiltrations ever. But it was not until Tuesday that the company said the system had been hacked and that users' data could have been stolen.
In the United States, several members of Congress seized on the breach, in which hackers stole names, addresses and possibly credit card details from 77 million users. One U.S. law firm filed a lawsuit in California on behalf of consumers.
"Gamers are angry that Sony's CEO hasn't come out to explain the situation and investors are disappointed over the company's corporate governance," said Michael Wang, manager of overseas funds at Prudential Financials in Taipei, which owns shares in Sony.
Sony's PlayStation Network, a service that produces an estimated $500 million in annual revenues, provides access to online games, movies and TV shows. Nine out of 10 of PlayStation's users are based in the United States or Europe.
Gamers could ditch Sony and analysts said people looking to buy a video game console could steer toward Microsoft Corp's Xbox, which has its own popular online network.
"I am outraged that my personal information may have been accessed by hackers," said Rich Chiang, a PlayStation and Xbox user in Shanghai.
Security experts said Sony would need to account for the loss of business -- as well as damage to its brand -- when it tallies up the cost. Other costs include notifying customers of the attack and bringing in experts to cleanse its network.
Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said the theft could cost Sony more than $1.5 billion, or an average of $20 for each of the 77 million customers whose data was potentially compromised. Poneman's firm specializes in securing information on computer networks.
Sony said the delay in notifying the public was needed to conduct a forensic investigation but it is fast becoming a public relations nightmare akin to Toyota Motor's bungled response to a giant vehicle recall last year, fuelling criticism of corporate Japan's standards of disclosure.
Neither Sony CEO Howard Stringer nor Kazuo Hirai, who was appointed to the company's No. 2 position last month after building up Sony's networked services, have commented publicly.
Sony shares closed down 4.5 percent after falling more than 5 percent at one stage, while the broad market rose 1.6 percent. The stock has now lost more than 8 percent this week.
Some fund managers said the impact might be contained.
"Shares of Sony have already reached the low since the earthquake so I think further downside is limited. Investors who buy Sony are buying on its growth in PlayStation. Gamers usually will not stop playing just because a single incident," said Prudential Financial's Wang.
Sony has struggled for years to control the activities of the hackers, who make up a portion of PlayStation's fanbase.
Earlier this month, games fan website PlayStation Lifestyle
said a group calling itself Anonymous had conducted attacks on Sony websites and online services, motivated by revenge for the company's attempts to clamp down on hacking.
"Sony's strategy in defending its intellectual property was heavy handed and has triggered the "nuclear option" with those that it engaged," IT security expert, Phil Lieberman, CEO and founder of Lieberman Software, said.
In the United States, attorneys general, who act as consumer advocates, had begun investigating the matter or reviewing it with staff in several states, including in Iowa, Connecticut, Florida and Massachusetts, according to their offices.
U.S. regulators could get involved as well. The Federal Trade Commission has been known to pursue companies that failed to safeguard consumer data. It could investigate if it determines Sony failed to tell its customers about the company's privacy policies.
A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment.
Sony reported the breach to the FBI's cybercrimes unit in San Diego, which is investigating, a person familiar with the probe told Reuters. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Late Wednesday, Rothken Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of an individual plaintiff named Kristopher Johns against Sony in the Northern District of California court.
"This suit seeks to redress Sony's failure to adequately provide service to PlayStation consoles and PlayStation Network," the lawyers for the plaintiff said in a court filing.
The plaintiff has requested the court to certify this case as a class action and has also sought unspecified monetary damages, according to the filing.
Sony did not return a call in the United States seeking comment.
Games developers voiced concerns about the ramifications of the data theft.
"What's potentially pretty damaging for people is passwords, because people may use the same password for logging into this network that they use for other things," said Jonathan Chey, a games developer and PlayStation user.
"Security questions (used for recovering passwords)too. My understanding from what they said is that stuff was compromised and was not encrypted."
In Britain, a government watchdog launched an investigation of the incident.
Britain's Information Commissioner's Office said it had contacted Sony and was investigating whether it violated laws that require it to safeguard personal information. The commissioner's investigation would depend in part on whether Sony stored user information in Britain.
Indeed, Sony may come under the toughest scrutiny from non-U.S. regulators, which have stricter consumer privacy laws.
"European countries are going to go crazy and be all over this," said Dan Burk, a professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. "They are absolutely obsessed about companies holding personal information."
By Nathan Layne and Tom Hals taken from

Lindsay Lohan Might Teach Acting Classes at Homeless Shelter

LOS ANGELES - Lindsay Lohan might teach acting classes at the Los Angeles homeless shelter where she was ordered to do community service, TMZ reported Thursday.
The Los Angeles Downtown Women's Center, which looks after homeless women, runs a theater workshop and wants Lohan to share her acting talents.
A spokesperson for the center said the staff was "extremely interested in having Lindsay contribute her talents when she kicks off her 360 hours of community service this week."
The workshop, which is called Dames Investing in Very Authentic Storytelling, or DIVAS, includes around 15 women who meet for two hours each week to learn how to express themselves through performing.
Sources said Lohan was interested in the program, adding that the troubled actress believed it would be "a perfect fit for her community service."
Lohan was sentenced in a Los Angeles court this month to 120 days in jail and ordered to serve 480 hours of community service as a result of a probation violation related to the alleged theft of a necklace from a jewelry store.
She was ordered to 360 hours at the homeless shelter and 120 hours of janitorial work at the Los Angeles County morgue.
The actress was released on bail and planning an appeal against her sentence.

Atheists Seek Chaplain Role in the US Military

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In the military, there are more than 3,000 chaplains who minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of active duty troops, regardless of their faiths. The vast majority are Christians, a few are Jews or Muslims, one is a Buddhist. A Hindu, possibly even a Wiccan may join their ranks soon.
Strange as it sounds, groups representing atheists and secular humanists are pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the chaplaincy, hoping to give voice to what they say is a large — and largely underground — population of nonbelievers in the military.
Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.
But winning the appointment of an atheist chaplain will require support from senior chaplains, a tall order. Many chaplains are skeptical: Do atheists belong to a “faith group,” a requirement for a chaplain candidate? Can they provide support to religious troops of all faiths, a fundamental responsibility for chaplains?
Jason Torpy, a former Army captain who is president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, said humanist chaplains would do everything religious chaplains do, including counsel troops and help them follow their faiths. But just as a Protestant chaplain would not preside over a Catholic service, a humanist might not lead a religious ceremony, though he might help organize it.
“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”
Mr. Torpy has asked to meet the chiefs of chaplains for each of the armed forces, which have their own corps, to discuss his proposal. The chiefs have yet to comment.
At the same time, an atheist group at Fort Bragg called Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, or MASH, has asked the Army to appoint an atheist lay leader at the base. A new MASH chapter at Fort Campbell, Ky., is planning to do the same as are atheists at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
Such lay leaders can lead “services” in lieu of chaplains and have access to meeting rooms, including chapels.
Chaplains at Fort Bragg near here have seemed open to the idea, if somewhat perplexed by it.
“You’re not a faith group; you’re a lack-of-faith group,” First Lt. Samantha Nicoll, an active atheist at Fort Bragg, recalled a chaplain friend’s saying about the idea. “But I said, ‘What else is there for us?’ ”
Atheist leaders acknowledge the seeming contradiction of nonbelievers seeking to become chaplains or receive recognition from the chaplain corps. But they say they believe the imprimatur of the chaplaincy will embolden atheists who worry about being ostracized for their worldviews.
Defense Department statistics show that about 9,400 of the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty military personnel identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, making them a larger subpopulation than Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military.
But atheist leaders say those numbers are an undercount because, they believe, there are many nonbelievers among the 285,000 service members who claim no religious preference on military surveys. Many chaplains dispute that interpretation, and say that most people in that group are religious, just not strongly so.
Those same statistics show that Christians represent about one million, or 70 percent, of all active-duty troops. They are even more dominant among the chaplain corps: about 90 percent of the 3,045 active duty chaplains are Christians, most of them Protestants.
Military atheist leaders say that although proselytizing by chaplains is forbidden, Christian beliefs pervade military culture, creating subtle pressures on non-Christians to convert.
As an example, they cite the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, created to help soldiers handle stress and prevent suicide. The program requires soldiers to complete surveys assessing emotional, social, family and spiritual well-being. Based on their answers, some soldiers are asked to take “resiliency” training.
Atheists say the survey and training are rife with religious code words that suggest a deity or afterlife. The Army counters that the program is intended to determine whether a soldier has “a strong set of beliefs, principles or values” that can sustain him through adversity — and not to gauge religiosity.
Atheist and secular humanist groups in the military are hardly new. But at some bases, they have become better organized and more vocal in recent years.
Last fall, atheists at Fort Bragg objected to an event by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association called Rock the Fort. The base command, at the urging of its chaplains, provided some money and manpower for the event as well as a choice location on the post’s parade grounds.
A communication sergeant, Justin Griffith, argued that the event was an Army-sponsored platform for the Graham organization to recruit converts. The post commander, Col. Stephen J. Sicinski, denied that, saying soldiers were not pressured to attend. In a recent interview, the colonel said Rock the Fort was intended to boost morale as well as “bolster the faith.”
In response, Sergeant Griffith has recruited a star lineup of atheist musicians and speakers, including the writer Richard Dawkins, to headline a secular event, possibly for the fall. He calls it Rock Beyond Belief and has asked Colonel Sicinski to provide resources similar to what he gave Rock the Fort.
Colonel Sicinski has refused, saying the event will not draw enough people to justify using the parade grounds and that money from religious tithes, which helped finance Rock the Fort, cannot be spent on it. Sergeant Griffith has appealed.
A high school dropout raised near Dallas, Sergeant Griffith, 28, was a passionate Christian and creationist until his teens. Now his dog tags list his religious preference as atheist, and he is pushing to create MASH chapters on as many bases as possible.
He is also giving thought to becoming a chaplain himself, though it would take years: He would have to earn a graduate degree in theology and then be commissioned an officer. He would also need the endorsement of “a qualified religious organization,” a role Mr. Torpy’s organization is seeking to play.
Sergeant Griffith said he believed there were already atheist chaplains in the military — just not open ones.
“I support the idea that religious soldiers need support from religious chaplains,” he said. “But there has to be a line between supporting religious soldiers and promoting religion.”
taken from

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Afghan officer fires on US troops, kills 9

KABUL, Afghanistan – A senior U.S. defense official says all eight of the military troops and the contractor killed by an Afghan pilot Wednesday in Kabul were Americans.
The official says it is not certain what branch of the military the troops were in. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public.
Officials said it was the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his own coalition partners.
The shooting took place in an Afghan Air Corps meeting room at Kabul airport. Officials said a veteran Afghan military pilot fired on the foreigners after an argument.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
Eight NATO troops and a contractor died Wednesday after an Afghan military pilot opened fire in a meeting — the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his own coalition partners, officials said.
The Afghan officer, who was a veteran military pilot, fired on the foreigners after an argument. The shooting occurred in an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps at Kabul airport.
"Suddenly, in the middle of the meeting, shooting started," said Afghan Air Corps spokesman Col. Bahader, who uses only one name. "After the shooting started, we saw a number of Afghan army officers and soldiers running out of the building. Some were even throwing themselves out of the windows to get away."
The nationalities of the eight NATO service members have not been released.
Five Afghan soldiers were wounded. At least one Afghan soldier was shot — in the wrist — but most of the soldiers suffered broken bones and cuts, Bahader said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shooting and offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims. He said those killed were trainers and advisers for the Afghan air force. The president ordered his defense and security officials to investigate the recent incidents to determine why they occurred.
It was the seventh time so far this year that members of the Afghan security forces, or insurgents impersonating them, have killed coalition soldiers or members of the Afghan security forces.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the gunman, who was killed during the shooting, was impersonating an army officer and that others at the facility helped him gain access.
However, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the gunman was an Afghan military pilot of 20 years.
"An argument happened between him and the foreigners and we have to investigate that," Azimi said.
An Afghan pilot who spoke on condition of anonymity, identified the gunman was Ahmad Gul, a 50-year-old pilot from Tarakhail district of Kabul province.
Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks on government and military installations across Afghanistan.
_On April 18, an insurgent managed to sneak past security at the heavily fortified Afghan Defense Ministry compound in the capital and killed two Afghan soldiers and an officer.
_Two days before that, an Afghan soldier walked into a meeting of NATO trainers and Afghan troops at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman province in eastern Afghanistan and detonated a vest of explosives hidden underneath his uniform. The blast, the worst before Wednesday's shooting, killed six American troops, four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter.
_On April, 15, a suicide bomber dressed as a policeman blew himself up inside the Kandahar police headquarters complex, killing the top law enforcement officer in the restive southern province.
_In northwest Afghanistan, a man wearing an Afghan border police uniform shot and killed two American military personnel on April 4 in Faryab. The gunman was upset over the recent burning of the Quran at a Florida church, according to NATO intelligence officials.
_In February, an Afghan soldier, who felt he had been personally offended by his German partners, shot and killed three German soldiers and wounded six others in the northern province of Baghlan.
_In January, an Afghan solider killed an Italian soldier and wounded another in Badghis province. The two soldiers were cleaning their weapons at a combat outpost when an Afghan soldier approached them with an M16 rifle and asked to use their equipment to clean his gun. The Italians saw that the Afghan soldier's rifle was loaded and asked him to unload it, at which point the Afghan soldier shot the two Italians and escaped from the base.
Before the airport shooting, the coalition had recorded 20 incidents since March 2009 where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them attacked coalition forces, killing a total of 36. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in these type of incidents.
According to information compiled by NATO, half of the 20 incidents involved the impersonation of an Afghan policeman or soldier. The cause of the other 10 incidents were attributed to combat stress or unknown reasons. NATO said that so far, there is no solid evidence — despite Taliban assertions — that any insurgent has joined the Afghan security forces for the sole purpose of conducting attacks on coalition or Afghan forces.

Egypt gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan explodes

A pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan has exploded after an attack by an armed gang in the north Sinai area of Egypt.
A tower of flames shot into the air and forced the pipeline to be shut down, Egyptian security officials say.
It is the second such attack in a month on the pipeline, south of the town of el-Arish, just 30 miles (50km) from the border with Israel.
On that occasion, when gunmen planted explosives, they failed to detonate.
"An unknown armed gang attacked the gas pipeline," an unnamed security source told Reuters, adding that the flow of gas to Israel and Jordan had been hit.
Neighbouring Jordan depends on Egyptian gas to generate 80% of its electricity while Israel gets 40% of its natural gas from the country. Syria also imports gas from Egypt.
Any disruption would force Jordan to rely on more expensive diesel fuel.
The valves controlling the flow of gas from the main terminal in Port Said, on the Mediterranean coast, were shut down to dampen the flames and people living nearby were forced to leave their homes.
However, there have been no reports of casualties.
'Long-term problem' The pipeline has frequently been targeted, including an attack on 5 February during the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak from power. On that occasion, gas exports to Israel and Jordan were stopped for a month.
The area is home to Bedouin tribesmen who have often complained of being neglected and oppressed by the central government. Tribesmen attempted to sabotage the pipeline in July 2010, AP reports.
The main road in the area was temporarily closed by tribesmen on Tuesday but then reopened by the army, Egypt's Mena news agency reported.
Egypt began supplying Israel with gas in 2008 under a 20-year deal.
But a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, Danny Yatom, said Israel now should focus on developing its own offshore gas reserves.
"We need to understand that this is a problem we're going to live with for a very long time, and we need to start preparing an alternative now," he told Israeli radio.
There is widespread opposition to the deal in Egypt because of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
There has also been a lengthy legal battle to ban supplies to Israel, amid claims that the gas was being sold at preferential rates. A ban was imposed by a court then overturned by the Supreme Court last year, though it was never enforced.
taken from

White House Releases Obama's Long-Form Birth Certificate

The White House has released President Obama's long-form birth certificate, saying the document is "proof positive" the president was born in Hawaii. 
The release marked an unexpected turn in the long-simmering, though widely discredited, controversy over Obama's origin. Obama's advisers have for the better part of three years dismissed questions about the president's birth, directing skeptics to the short-term document released during the 2008 campaign. But as the issue gained more attention at the state level and particularly in the 2012 presidential race, Obama said Wednesday that it was starting to distract attention from pressing challenges like the budget. 
The president, who discussed the release at the White House without taking questions, said he had been "puzzled" by the enduring shelf life of the issue and acknowledged the announcement may not put the so-called birther controversy to rest. But he told the public and the media that it's time to "get serious." 
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama said. "We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do. We've got big problems to solve." 
He said the country will not solve those problems if people are "distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers." 
The document released by the White House lists Obama's birthplace as Honolulu, Hawaii, and his birth date as Aug. 4, 1961. The hospital listed is Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital. The name on the birth certificate is Barack Hussein Obama II. 
Obama's presidential campaign, in response to questions raised in 2008, at the time posted a short-form version of the document on the Internet. But conspiracy theories continued to fester. They gained legs in recent weeks as Donald Trump, who is toying with the possibility of running as a presidential candidate in 2012, repeatedly and publicly questioned Obama's origin. 
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer noted that what started as Internet chatter had moved into the national political debate and ended up being discussed regularly on mainstream news outlets. 
Pfeiffer, on the White House blog, said the president thought the attention was "bad for the American people" and directed his counsel to request access to the long-form document from the Hawaii State Department of Health. The department granted an exception to release the long-form document "because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting," the White House said. 
"At a time of great consequence for this country -- when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue," Pfeiffer said on the blog. "The President's hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country."
Trump, speaking in New Hampshire, took credit Wednesday for the president's decision to release the document. He said his team would have to examine the birth certificate and questioned why the White House took so long, but indicated he wanted to move beyond the issue. 
"Today, I'm very proud of myself, because I've accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish," Trump told reporters. "Why he didn't do it when everybody else was asking for it, I don't know. But I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue." 
The document states that Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama, was born in Kenya and that his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in Kansas. 

Dogs Detecting Cancer? It's in the Breath, Experts Say

Carol Witcher says she knows it sounds crazy, but she swears that her dog, Floyd Henry, discovered the cancer in her breast in 2008.
"When he sniffed me, he kind of turned back and really pushed into my right breast, real hard," she said. "He started sniffing, sniffing, sniffing, sniffing."
It took four days of nudging and nipping by the 8-year-old boxer before Witcher went to a doctor.
"He pushed real hard for one shot. ... Then he looked at me straight in the face, took his right foot and began to paw my right breast. And I thought, 'This is not good,'" she said. "I knew instantly that there was an issue."
Witcher's stage-three cancer required surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
"Her type of cancer was rather large in her breast," said Dr. Sheryl Gabram-Mendola, a breast surgical oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. "I absolutely believe that the dog saved Miss Witcher's life."
Gabram-Mendola has been studying the breath of cancer patients. She said cancer causes the body to release certain organic compounds that dogs can smell but people cannot. Gabram-Mendola and her team have developed a test in which they look for more than 300 molecules in the breath.
"Our model predicted in over 75 percent of the time correctly which patients did have breast cancer and which ones did not," Gabram-Mendola said. When Witcher breathed into the tube, the test confirmed that she was sick.
"You could potentially go to a physician's office, blow in the bottle and ultimately have a direct read system where we would know in the office: Are you showing some of those indicators [that] something's happening in your body?" Gabram-Mendola said.

Breath Holds Clues and Details

Experts say the breath holds clues that doctors are just learning to decipher.
In January, a study published in the British journal Gut said that a specially-trained 8-year-old black Labrador retriever named Marine had detected colorectal cancer 91 percent of the time when sniffing patients' breath, and 97 percent of the time when sniffing stool.
In August 2010, a terrier named Kiko bit off his owner's big toe, alerting the 48-year-old man to his undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.
It's estimated that a dog's sense of smell is up to a million times better than that of a human, depending on the breed. Dogs have also reportedly sniffed out skin, bladder, lung and ovarian cancers.
"Dogs smell different things and they understand different things," said Charlene Bayer, a principal research scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute. "They don't necessarily know what's wrong, but they know that there's something that's not normal, that you don't smell the way you normally do."

Carol Witcher has been free of cancer for two years. "I had rescued him when he was about seven months old," she said of Floyd Henry. "He, in turn, rescued me."
by Steve Otsunsam taken from

Unknown ancient kingdom found in China

An unknown kingdom dating back to 1046 B.C. has been unearthed in north China, archaeologists said.
The kingdom is probably from the Xizhou dynasty (1046 to 771 B.C.), Xinhua reported.
Engraving on bronze wares found in tombs in Shanxi province’s Linfen city indicate that the region was reigned by Ba Bo, or Count of the Ba kingdom, the archaeologists said.
The Ba kingdom had never been seen in any historical record before, they said.
“The tombs gave us a chance to see the Ba kingdom that had been forgotten by history. It also sheds light on the Xizhou dynasty’s feudal system and technology as well as exchanges and integration of different ethnic groups of that time,” said Wang Wei, head of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
“Records of the kingdom might have been lost in history. It is also possible that Ba was among a cluster of small kingdoms and was neglected by ancient historians,” said Xie Yaoting, deputy head of the Shanxi Institute of Archaeology.
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'Ninja' protecting Kent spa town of Tunbridge Wells

A masked vigilante has taken to the streets of Royal Tunbridge Wells to protect "ordinary citizens".
The "Neighbourhood Ninja" claims to be a 25-year-old who has tackled garage break-ins and conducted night patrols.
The vigilante, who has so far remained anonymous, is posting his exploits in the Kent spa town on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
He also says he has reunited missing cats with their owners and warned drivers when they risk parking fines.
'Ninja recruitment' Places under official "Ninja Watch" are said to include Homebase, the Bedford Pub, and the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.
And the Neighbourhood Ninja even claims to be keeping an eye on this week's royal wedding.
In one tweet, he wrote: "Don't worry Chief Inspector of Kent Police, you have nothing to fear from me, I am on your side. I'll leave my nunchuks at home."
He has also said he is "bringing the community together" and could even be looking to recruit more ninjas.
A Kent Police spokeswoman said the force was not aware of the Neighbourhood Ninja and warned residents they should not take the law into their own hands.
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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

leaked files accuse BBC of being part of a 'possible propaganda media network'

The files, obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph, disclose that a phone number of someone at the BBC was found in the phone books and phones of a number of extremists seized by US forces.
A detainee assessment, dated 21 April 2007, states: "The London, United Kingdom (UK), phone number 0044 207 XXX XXXX was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals.
“The number is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).” Analysis by The Daily Telegraph suggests the number is one for Bush House, home of the BBC World Service.
The assessment continues that US forces uncovered many “extremist links” to this number, suggesting that extremists could have made contact with BBC employees who were sympathetic to extremists or had information on “ACM [anti-Coalition Militia] operations”.
It says: “(Analyst Note: Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM operations.)”
The Daily Telegraph rang the phone number on Monday. A single tone on the line suggested that it had been disconnected, or was no longer in use.
The possible link between extremism and staff at the BBC will anger the national broadcaster, which prides itself on its impartiality.
The BBC number was given in the file of Turki Mish’awi Za’id Alj-Amri, a Saudi who was “assessed to be a member of al-Qaeda, who travelled to Afghanistan to participate in Jihad”.
The file claims that Alj-Amri had “stayed at al-Qaeda facilities, received training at an al-Qaeda camp, and served under al-Qaida leadership in Tora Bora, AF. “Detainee's pocket litter links him to significant Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) personnel and groups.”
It says: “Many of the telephone numbers in his pocket litter have been associated with multiple ACM personnel, indicating he may have played a greater role in multiple activities than previously assessed.”
Alj-Amri was repatriated to Saudi Arabia from the detention camp seven months later on 9 November 2007, along with 13 other men.
In February 2009 the Saudi Government published a list of the 85 most wanted suspected terrorists, which included an individual named Turki Mashawi Al Aseery.
In September 2006 the BBC’s then-chairman Michael Grade organised an “impartiality summit”, hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, to assess whether there was a left-leaning bias at the broadcaster.
An account of the meeting, leaked to a Sunday newspaper the following month, showed that that executives accepted they would broadcast an interview with al-Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden, if they were given the opportunity.
In a debate on whether the BBC should interview Bin Laden if he approached them, it was decided the al-Qaeda leader would be given a platform to explain his views.
Andrew Marr later told the newspaper: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people.
“It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”
A BBC spokesperson said: "Independence and impartiality are at the heart of all BBC World Service output. The service has interviewed representatives of organisations from all sides involved in the Afghan conflict so it would not be surprising that a number believed to relate to the BBC Pashto service was in circulation."