Monday, 19 December 2011

North Koreans mourn Kim Jong-il

North Koreans are in mourning after the death of their leader, Kim Jong-il.
People wept openly on the streets of the capital, Pyongyang. State media said he had suffered a heart attack on Saturday, aged 69. He had been unwell.
The official news agency KCNA described one of his sons, Kim Jong-un, as the "great successor" whom North Koreans should unite behind.
Pyongyang's neighbours are on alert fearing instability in the poor and isolated nuclear-armed nation.

Start Quote

This could be a turning point for North Korea”
End Quote William Hague UK Foreign Minister
Fears were compounded by unconfirmed reports from South Korean news agency Yonhap that the North had test-fired a missile off its eastern coast before the announcement of Kim Jong-il's death was made.
Unnamed government officials in Seoul were quoted as saying they did not believe the launch was linked to the announcement. The South Korean defence ministry has declined to comment.
Following news of Mr Kim's death, South Korea put its armed forces on high alert and said the country was on a crisis footing. Japan's government convened a special security meeting.
China - North Korea's closest ally and biggest trading partner - expressed shock at the news of his death and pledged to continue making "active contributions to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in this region".
Asian stock markets fell after the news was announced.
Crying aloud Mr Kim's death was announced in an emotional statement on national television.


North Korea has shocked the world by announcing that its leader has died.
Kim Jong-il had been presented to his people as a father-figure and demi-god - all-powerful and benevolent. But his tight control of the country, and his creation of a nuclear arsenal, has meant his death has caused political shockwaves around the region too.
His presumed successor, Kim Jong-un, is largely unknown outside the secretive state, and countries throughout the region are watching closely for any instability in the transition of power.
The announcer, wearing black, struggled to keep back the tears as she said he had died of physical and mental over-work.
KCNA later reported that he had died of a "severe myocardial infarction along with a heart attack" at 08:30 local time on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday).
He had been on a train at the time, for one of his "field guidance" tours, KCNA said.
The state news agency said a funeral would be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un would head the funeral committee. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December.
Images from inside the secretive state showed people in the streets of Pyongyang weeping at the news of his death.
Ruling party members in one North Korean county were shown by state TV banging tables and crying out loud, the AFP news agency reports.
"I can't believe it," a party member named as Kang Tae-Ho was quoted as saying. "How can he go like this? What are we supposed to do?"
Another, Hong Sun-Ok, said: "He tried so hard to make our lives much better and he just left like this."
KCNA said people were "convulsing with pain and despair" at their loss, but would unite behind his successor Kim Jong-un.
It said millions of North Koreans were "engulfed in indescribable sadness".

North Korea

Kim Jong-il (file image)
  • Population about 23 million
  • One million-strong army thought to be world's fifth largest
  • Manufacturing output mainly geared to military's demands
  • All aspects of daily life strictly controlled by government
  • Daily food shortages; acute power cuts and poor infrastructure
"All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public," the news agency said.
Little is known about Kim Jong-un. He was educated in Switzerland, is aged in his late 20s and is believed to be Kim Jong-il's third son - born to Mr Kim's reportedly favourite wife, the late Ko Yong-hui.
Kim Jong-un was unveiled as his father's likely successor just over a year ago. Many had expected to see this process further consolidated in 2012.
'Turning point' South Korea - which remains technically at war with the north - urged people to "go about their usual economic activities" on Monday, while putting the military on alert.
President Lee Myung-Bak spoke to US President Barack Obama by telephone and they "agreed to closely co-operate and monitor the situation together", a South Korean presidential spokesman said.
Reaction from Washington was muted, with the White House saying it was "closely monitoring" reports of the death.
The US remained "committed to stability on the Korean peninsula, and to the freedom and security of our allies", it said in a statement.
China said it was "distressed" to hear the news of his death. "We express our grief about this and extend our condolences to the people of North Korea," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.


The death of Kim Jong-il is the ultimate moment of truth for North Korea. This strangest of regimes has survived for 20 years after most forms of communism elsewhere either perished or morphed into something more sensible. So we had best not underestimate its staying power.
Kim Jong-un inherits a poisoned chalice. This untried youth must now run a country both at odds with most of the world and oppressive of its long-suffering people - who may not obey forever, despite the remarkable scenes of publicly orchestrated grief which we are now witnessing.
Analysts say that with the process of transition from father to son incomplete, Mr Kim's death could herald "very unstable times" in North Korea.
"We have to be very worried because whenever there is domestic instability, North Korea likes to find an external situation to divert the attention away from that - including indulging in provocation," Professor Lee Jung-hoon, specialising in international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul, told the BBC.
Christopher Hill, former US representative to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, said all parties needed to "keep cool heads".
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said it could be a "turning point" for North Korea to engage more closely with the international community.
Kim Jong-il inherited the leadership of North Korea from his father Kim Il-sung.
Shortly after he came to power in 1994, a severe famine caused by ill-judged economic reforms and poor harvests left an estimated two million people dead.
His regime has been harshly criticised for human rights abuses and is internationally isolated because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Under Mr Kim's leadership, funds have been channelled to the military and in 2006 North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. It followed that up with a second one three years later. Multinational talks aimed at disarming North Korea have been deadlocked for months.
He had reportedly been in poor health since suffering a stroke in August 2008.

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Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point

After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.
As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.
It has asked representatives of the Taliban to match that confidence-building measure with some of their own. Those could include a denunciation of international terrorism and a public willingness to enter formal political talks with the government headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The officials acknowledged that the Afghanistan diplomacy, which has reached a delicate stage in recent weeks, remains a long shot. Among the complications: U.S. troops are drawing down and will be mostly gone by the end of 2014, potentially reducing the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate.
Still, the senior officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity to share new details of the mostly secret effort, suggested it has been a much larger piece of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy than is publicly known.
U.S. officials have held about half a dozen meetings with their insurgent contacts, mostly in Germany and Doha with representatives of Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban's Quetta Shura, the officials said.
The stakes in the diplomatic effort could not be higher.
Failure would likely condemn Afghanistan to continued conflict, perhaps even civil war, after NATO troops finish turning security over to Karzai's weak government by the end of 2014.
Success would mean a political end to the war and the possibility that parts of the Taliban - some hardliners seem likely to reject the talks - could be reconciled.
The effort is now at a pivot point.
"We imagine that we're on the edge of passing into the next phase. Which is actually deciding that we've got a viable channel and being in a position to deliver" on mutual confidence-building measures, said a senior U.S. official.
While some U.S.-Taliban contacts have been previously reported, the extent of the underlying diplomacy and the possible prisoner transfer have not been made public until now.
There are slightly fewer that 20 Afghan citizens at Guantanamo, according to various accountings. It is not known which ones might be transferred, nor what assurances the White House has that the Karzai government would keep them in its custody.
Guantanamo detainees have been released to foreign governments - and sometimes set free by them - before. But the transfer as part of a diplomatic negotiation appears unprecedented.
The reconciliation effort, which has already faced setbacks including a supposed Taliban envoy who turned out to be an imposter, faces hurdles on multiple fronts, the U.S. officials acknowledged.
They include splits within the Taliban; suspicion from Karzai and his advisers; and Pakistan's insistence on playing a major, even dominating, role in Afghanistan's future.
Obama will likely face criticism, including from Republican presidential candidates, for dealing with an insurgent group that has killed U.S. soldiers and advocates a strict Islamic form of government.
But U.S. officials say that the Afghan war, like others before it, will ultimately end in a negotiated settlement.
"The challenges are enormous," a second senior U.S. official acknowledged. "But if you're where we are ... you can't not try. You have to find out what's out there."
If the effort advances, one of the next steps would be more public, unequivocal U.S. support for establishing a Taliban office outside of Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said they have told the Taliban they must not use that office for fundraising, propaganda or constructing a shadow government, but only to facilitate future negotiations that could eventually set the stage for the Taliban to reenter Afghan governance.
On Sunday, a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council said the Taliban had indicated it was willing to open an office in an Islamic country.
But underscoring the fragile nature of the multi-sided diplomacy, Karzai last week announced he was recalling Afghanistan's ambassador to Qatar, after reports that nation was readying the opening of the Taliban office. Afghan officials complained they were left out of the loop.
On a possible transfer of Taliban prisoners long held at Guantanamo, U.S. officials stressed the move would be a 'national decision' made in consultation with the U.S. Congress.
Obama is expected to soon sign into law the 2011 defense authorization bill, including changes that would broaden the military's power over terror detainees and require the Pentagon to certify in most cases that certain security conditions will be met before Guantanamo prisoners can be sent home.
Ten years after the repressive Taliban government was toppled, a hoped-for political resolution has become central to U.S. strategy to end a war that has killed nearly 3,000 foreign troops and cost the Pentagon alone $330 billion.
While Obama's decision to deploy an extra 30,000 troops in 2009-10 helped push the Taliban out of much of its southern heartland, the war is far from over. Militants remain able to slip in and out of lawless areas of Pakistan, where the Taliban's senior leadership is located.
Bold attacks from the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network have undermined the narrative of improving security and raised questions about how well an inexperienced Afghan military will be able to cope when foreign troops go home.
In that uncertain context, officials say that initial contacts with insurgent representatives since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly embraced a diplomatic strategy in a February 18, 2011, speech have centered on establishing whether the Taliban was open to reconciliation, despite its pledge to continue its 'sacred jihad' against NATO and U.S. soldiers.
"The question has been to the Taliban, 'You have got a choice to make. Life's moving on," the second U.S. official said. "There's a substantial military campaign out there that will continue to do you substantial damage ... Are you prepared to go forward with some kind of reconciliation process?"
U.S. officials have met with Tayeb Agha, who was a secretary to Mullah Omar, and they have held one meeting arranged by Pakistan with Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of the Haqqani network's founder. They have not shut the door to further meetings with the Haqqani group, which is blamed for a brazen attack this fall on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and which U.S. officials link closely to Pakistan's intelligence agency.
U.S. officials say they have kept Karzai informed of the process and have met with him before and after each encounter, but they declined to confirm whether representatives of his government are present at those meetings.
Officials now see themselves on the verge of reaching a second phase in the peace process that, if successful, would clinch the confidence-building measures and allow them to move to a third stage in which the Afghan government and the Taliban would sit down in talks facilitated by the United States.
"That's why it's especially delicate -- because if we don't deliver the second phase, we don't get to the pay-dirt," the first senior U.S. official said.
Senior administration officials say that confidence-building measures must be implemented, not merely agreed to, before full-fledged political talks can begin. The sequence of such measures has not been determined, and they will ultimately be announced by Afghans, they say.
Underlying the efforts of U.S. negotiators are fundamental questions about whether - and why - the Taliban would want to strike a deal with the Western-backed Karzai government.
U.S. officials stress that the 'end conditions' they want the Taliban to embrace - renouncing violence, breaking with al Qaeda, and respecting the Afghan constitution - are not preconditions to starting talks.
Encouraging trends on the Afghan battlefield - declining militant attacks and a thinning of the Taliban's mid-level leadership - are one reason why U.S. officials believe the Taliban may be more likely now to engage in substantive talks.
They also cite what they see as an overlooked, subtle shift in the Taliban's position, based in part on statements this year from Mullah Omar that, despite fiery rhetoric, indicate some openness to talks. They also condemn civilian deaths and advocate development of Afghanistan's economy.
In July, the Taliban reiterated its long-standing position of rejecting talks as long as foreign troops remain. In October, a senior Haqqani commander said the United States was insincere about peace.
But U.S. officials say the Taliban no longer wants to be the global pariah it was in the 1990s. Some elements have suggested flexibility on issues of priority for the West, such as protecting rights for women and girls.
"That's one of the reasons why we think this is serious," a third senior U.S. official said.
Yet as it moves ahead the peace initiative is fraught with challenge.
At least one purported insurgent representative has turned out to be a fraud, highlighting the difficulty of vetting potential brokers in the shadowy world of the militants.
And it as dealt a major blow in September when former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed Karzai's peace efforts, was assassinated in an attack Afghanistan said originated in neighboring Pakistan.
Since then, Karzai has been more ambivalent, ruling out an early resumption in talks. He said Afghanistan would talk only to Pakistan 'until we have an address for the Taliban.'
The dust-up over the unofficial Taliban office in Qatar, with a spokesman for Karzai stressing that Afghanistan must lead peace negotiations to end the war, suggests tensions in the U.S. and Afghan approaches to the peace process.
Speaking in an interview with CNN aired on Sunday, Karzai counseled caution in making sure that Taliban interlocutors are authentic -- and authentically seeking peace. The Rabbani killing, he said, "brought us in a shock to the recognition that we were actually talking to nobody."
Critics of Obama's peace initiative are deeply skeptical of the Taliban's willingness to negotiate given that the West's intent to pull out most troops after 2014 would give insurgents a chance to reclaim lost territory or nudge the weak Kabul government toward collapse.
While the United States is expected to keep a modest military presence in Afghanistan beyond then, all of Obama's 'surge' troops will be home by next fall and the administration - looking to refocus on domestic priorities -- is already exploring further reductions.
Another reason to be circumspect is the potential spoiler role of Pakistan, which has so far resisted U.S. pressure to crack down on militants fueling violence in Afghanistan.
Such considerations make for a divisive initiative within the Obama administration. Few officials describe themselves as optimists about the peace initiative; at the State Department, formally leading the talks, senior officials see the odds of brokering a successful agreement at only around 30 percent.
"There's a very real likelihood that these guys aren't serious ... which is why are continuing to prosecute all of the lines of effort here," the third senior U.S. official said.
While NATO commanders promise they will keep up pressure on militants as the troop force shrinks, they are facing a tenacious insurgency in eastern Afghanistan that may prove even more challenging than the south.
Still, with Obama committed to withdrawing from Afghanistan, as the United States did last week from Iraq, the administration has few alternatives but to pursue what may well prove to be a quixotic quest for a deal.
"Wars end, and the end of wars have political consequences," the second official said. "You can either try to shape those, or someone does it to you."

By Missy Ryan, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball taken from

Disability benefit cuts: a disaster waiting to happen

If any reminder were needed of how arbitrary, cruel and ultimately self-defeating the government's attempts to reform disability benefits are likely to be, it is the case of Sue Marsh.
At the weekend, Marsh - who has severe Crohn's disease - received a letter confirming she was no longer eligible for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), a payment which enables her to meet the considerable costs of care and of getting around.
In a blog post describing her shock and disbelief at the decision she writes:
"I have severe Crohn's disease. Probably one of the most severe cases in the country.
I have had 7 major life saving operations to remove over 30 obstructions (blockages) from my bowel.
I take chemo-shots every two weeks that suppress my immune system, ensuring that I regularly have to fight infections. Exhaustion, pain and nausea plague every single day of my life.
I have osteoprosis and malnutrition.
I have had major seizures and a stroke.
Nonetheless, I have just heard from my own Disability Living Allowance application, that it has been rejected. Completely. I will receive no support at all from DLA. Despite claiming successfully in the past, despite only getting weaker and more frail and less able to live independently, my reconsideration was rejected.
The only option now is to appeal. I will have to fill in a horribly complicated appeal form over the Xmas period, wait up to one year to go to tribunal, and probably go bankrupt in the mean time.
The state will pay thousands to hear my appeal.
The only conclusion I can come to is that if I don't qualify for DLA, no-one with bowel disease can."
In the past Marsh has been fastidious in her claims for DLA: when she is feeling well enough she comes off DLA; when her condition (which fluctuates in severity) gets worse gain, she reapplies. Applying for DLA is not lightly undertaken - it requires filling out a 50 page form and accompanying it with a stack of medical evidence, such as doctor's letters. Ironically, had Sue not been so diligent - if she had just stayed permanently on DLA regardless of the changes in her condition - she would not be in the position she is now, facing the removal of £280 a month of allowances.
Her initial thought, after her latest application was rejected, was that an administrative error had been made. She sent it back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for "reconsideration". The answer came back last Saturday: the decision stands.
Marsh says that despite the shock she couldn't help but see the rather grimly ironical funny side. She is one of the most articulate campaigners against the unfairness and irrationality of the government's proposed welfare reforms. She runs, or writes for, three blogs - Where's the Benefit, Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, and The Broken of Britain. She is a regular contributor to the Guardian's Comment is Free section. The despair of losing DLA (and the long wait for an appeal) notwithstanding, it was hard for her not to see this as a campaigner's gift and a huge PR own-goal for the DWP. Indeed, over the weekend, her blog post went viral on Twitter, provoking a storm of outrage.
It has also highlighted changes to DLA proposed as part of the Welfare Reform Bill, currently in the House of Lords (and being debated in the New Year). The government is proposing to replace DLA with a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This will focus welfare payments on disabled claimants deemed to be "most in need" in an attempt to reduce government expenditure on this benefit by around 20% by 2015-16. The danger, says campaigners, is that reform is being driven by the need to meet cost targets, meaning that medical assessments will become increasingly arbitrary and - as Marsh discovered this weekend - incomprehensible, leading to huge numbers of appeals, and widespread fury.
Up to now, the debate over disability benefits - at least in the mainstream media - has focused almost exclusively on unemployment benefits: whether or not people "on the sick" should be pressed harder to come off benefit and work. The "uncovering" of apparently "fit for work" claimants - so-called "benefit scroungers" - is a staple right wing tabloid story and has helped shape the political debate over welfare into one about "deserving" and "undeserving" beneficiaries.
Crucially, DLA is not employment-related, and many people who get it work (indeed, it helps many of them to remain in work): you can qualify for it if you are under the age of 65, have a physical or mental disability, and your disability is severe enough for you to need assistance with care and mobility. The level of payment is pegged to the severity of your condition. In short, DLA is a targeted, flexible payment you can receive if you have a severe disability.
The divisive "feckless benefit scrounger" rhetoric so brutally encouraged by ministers and the DWP to promote reform of incapacity benefit will not be quite so easy to spin this time round. Marsh says that DLA is not only hard to get, but has one of the lowest fraud rates of any benefit - at less than 0.5%. It can also be claimed, says Marsh, on behalf of disabled children.
Importantly, the reform of DLA will affect a good percentage of Daily Mail readers and "middle England" Tory voters, many of whom would be most surprised and offended to be labelled as scroungers (or see their children so labelled). Around 3.2m people are in receipt of DLA. Chopping 20% off this bill will mean widespread incredulity, anger and despair for recipients and a huge political problem for the Coalition. As Marsh points out on her blog:
"Here are some figures that may explain why "so many" qualify for DLA: 3.7 million people have lung disease, 2.6 million people have diabetes, 180,000 people suffer from bowel disease, 5.4 million people suffer from asthma, 2.6 million live with heart disease, around 300,000 people a year are diagnosed with cancer, 1,800 babies a year are born with cerebral palsy, 640,000 people live with schizophrenia, 820,000 live with Alzheimers or dementia, 19,000 receive dialysis for kidney failure, 23,000 are deaf blind, around 40,000 people have suffered a spinal injury and 8,500 people suffer from cystic fibrosis."
This is a large, powerful, and articulate lobby. Reforming incapacity benefit has been a relatively easy ride for ministers. PIP looks like a disaster in waiting.

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End of the road for Saab as owners file for its bankruptcy

Saab's owners Swedish Automobile had been in talks with potential buyers Youngman and Pang Da, but GM, which sold Saab in February 2010, refused to agree to necessary technology licence transfers to the Chinese car companies.
Further talks had been underway with a different combination of would-be investors, including a Chinese bank, but Detroit-based GM said it could not support the proposals as they were "not meaningfully different" from the previous options.
In a statement this weekend GM spokesman James Cain said: "Each proposal results either directly or indirectly in the transfer of control and/or ownership of the company in a manner that would be detrimental to GM and its shareholders. As such, GM cannot support any of these proposed alternatives."
Guy Lofalk, Saab’s court-appointed administrator, had already applied to end the reorganisation earlier this month on the grounds that the carmaker was out of money and had no realistic hope of gaining financing soon.
Negotiations had been taking place under a three-month bankruptcy protection order and Swedish Automobile's chief executive Victor Muller had been due in court today as judges debated whether to extend or lift the order.
Instead, Mr Muller went to the court to file for Saab's bankruptcy.
Saab GB, the British division of the company, went into administration at the end of November, threatening the jobs of 55 people working at its Milton Keynes headquarters and 65 employed in dealerships in London.
The vast majority of Saab’s 3,600-strong workforce is based in Trollhaettan, Sweden.
Saab’s vehicle sales, which peaked at 133,000 cars in 2006, have plunged in the last few years. The company sold 31,696 cars in 2010, missing a target of 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles.
Saab Auto suspended production in March, when it couldn’t pay suppliers, and has only occasionally restarted assembly lines since then. It has delayed wages several times and has yet to give workers pay that was due at the end of November.

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N. Korea test-fires short-range missiles

North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles off its east coast on Monday, the same day it announced the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.
The agency quoted an unnamed government official as saying the launches were unrelated to the announcement that Kim had died Saturday of a heart attack.
"The missiles are estimated to have a range of about 120 kilometres (72 miles)," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"We believe the North test-fired the missiles to try to improve their capabilities and range. We don't see this as more than test-firing."
Seoul's defence ministry declined to confirm the reported launches.
North Korea has been testing its new KN-06 missile, a modified version of the KN-01 and KN-02 ground-to-ground missiles, Yonhap said.
The communist country has frequently conducted short-range missile tests in recent years. South Korean officials say they are part of routine exercises but the tests are sometimes timed to coincide with periods of tension.
South Korea put its military on alert as the North's state television announced at noon that the 69-year-old leader had died.

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Egypt clashes move into 4th day, US worried

* Death toll climbs to 13, hundreds wounded
* Police, troops briefly chase protesters out of Tahrir
* Clinton "deeply concerned", Ban "highly alarmed"
* Army general blames unrest on "evil forces" (Adds army comment)
By Marwa Awad and Edmund Blair
CAIRO, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces fought opponents of army rule in Cairo for a fourth day on Monday and the United States, worried by the violence, urged the generals to respect human rights.
Medical sources said the death toll had risen to 13 since Friday. Hundreds have been wounded and scores detained.
Police and soldiers using batons and teargas drove stone-throwing protesters out of Cairo's Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, overnight.
Hundreds had returned to the square by morning after security forces retreated behind barricades in streets leading to parliament, the cabinet office and the Interior Ministry.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the "excessive" force used against the demonstrations that have widened a rift among Egyptians over the role of the army and cast a shadow over the country's first free election in decades.
An army general told a news conference "evil forces" wanted to sow chaos and he defended soldiers who had shown "self-restraint" despite provocation by those trying to burn down buildings and create discord between the army and the people.
Soldiers have been filmed beating protesters with batons even after they have fallen to the ground. A Reuters picture showed two policemen dragging a prostrate woman by the shirt, exposing her underwear.
The violence broke out just after the second stage of a six-week election for Egypt's new parliament that starts a slow countdown to the army's return to barracks. The military has pledged to hand power to an elected president by July.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "deeply concerned" about the violence and urged the security forces "to respect and protect the universal rights of all Egyptians".
In a statement to a nation which has received billions of dollars in U.S. military and other aid, she also called on protesters "to refrain from acts of violence".
An army source said 164 people had been detained. A security source said a 26-year-old man had died in custody, although the cause of death was not immediately clear.
State news agency MENA said the public prosecutor had detained 123 people accused of resisting the authorities, throwing rocks at the army and police, and setting fire to government buildings. The prosecutor had released 53 others.
"From the start of the revolution, the evil forces have wanted to drag Egypt into a chaos, putting army into confrontation with the people," General Adel Emara said, adding those guarding state buildings had a right to self-defence.
"What is happening does not belong with the revolution and its pure youth, who never wanted to bring down this nation," he said, adding that troops had faced people wielding knives, petrol bombs and other weapons.
Many Egyptians want to focus on building democratic institutions, not street activism, but have nevertheless been shocked by the tactics of security forces in and around Tahrir.
Protesters said they had seized four soldiers who had been part of the attacking force in the early hours of Monday.
"We quickly got the four into vehicles and drove them away from the square, otherwise they would have been beaten to a pulp by angry protesters who experienced the army's vicious attacks," said Sayyid Abu Ella, speaking by telephone from Tahrir.
Late on Sunday, protesters had hurled petrol bombs at lines of security forces and chanted "Down with Tantawi" a reference to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi who heads the army council and was Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.
Ban Ki-moon "is highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protesters, and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest", the U.N. Secretary-General's office said in a statement.
The violence has overshadowed the election that is set to give Islamists the biggest bloc in parliament.
The West, long friendly with Mubarak and other regional strongmen who kept a lid on Islamists, has watched warily as Islamist parties have swept elections in Morocco, Tunisia and now Egypt following this year's Arab uprisings.
Hard-core activists have camped in Tahrir since a protest against army rule on Nov. 18 that was sparked by the army-backed cabinet's proposals to permanently shield the military from civilian oversight in the new constitution.
Tough security tactics against hot-headed youths also sparked a flare-up last month that killed 42 people.
Some activists asked protesters to stop hurling stones on Sunday, but they refused. Other activists handed over to the army people they said were making petrol bombs.
The violence has deepened the frustration of many Egyptians tired of months of unrest that has left the economy in tatters.
"There are people who wait for any problem and seek to amplify it ... The clashes won't stop. There are street children who found shelter in Tahrir," said Ali el-Nubi, a postal worker, adding the army should have managed the transition better. (Additional reporting by JoAnne Allen in Washington, John O'Callaghan, Tamim Elyan, Shaimaa Fayed and Reuters Television; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Bonfire of the generals as 'top heavy' MoD cuts jobs

The Ministry of Defence has become so "top heavy" with senior ranking officers and civil servants that it will have to axe more than 700 top posts in the next three years, and another 335 before 2020, according to a confidential document leaked to the Guardian.
The cull will include rear admirals, major generals and air vice-marshals, as well as scores of more junior officers, such as captains and colonels, and civilians of similar seniority.
The scale of the cuts needed to balance the budget is set out in a document prepared by Jonathan Slater, the director general of transformation and strategy within the MoD.
Slater sets out why the department has become so bloated in recent years and urges quick action to address the problem. The leaked document, titled Defence Reform – Liability Review, was sent to senior officials last month and is unusually blunt in tone.
"The simple truth is that the defence senior cadre is larger than we can afford, is judged to be out of proportion with a reducing manpower base and also with modern working practices and societal tolerances."
It adds: "The perception, both within and beyond the department, that defence is bureaucratic and top heavy must be addressed. It undermines the confidence of our own staff, parliament, the public and media, and has a detrimental impact on the delivery of frontline and other defence outputs.
"Put simply, the size of the defence workforce has fallen over recent decades, but reductions in the numbers of leaders has not kept pace … the UK has a higher proportion of senior officers than the majority of our allies."
The document says the size of the most senior cadre within the MoD – one star and above – has risen by a third since 1990, and states there are too many layers in the present structures. "There is an urgent need to reduce our manpower costs … reductions must be reflected at all levels of the hierarchy," it adds.
Slater sets out some of the ideas the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will have to adopt to get the numbers down – including a "presumption that the lowest possible rank should be used" for tasks – "commensurate with levels of risk".
The service chiefs have also been told to "identify which posts currently filled by the military might be delivered as effectively as a civilian … military posts should be limited to those requiring specific military skills and experience".
The number of support staff for senior ranking officers also needs to be thinned out, the document warns.
In a section headlined Indicative Reductions, Slater says he does not intend to set arbitrary targets for cuts – but then gives specific ones. He sets out in a table what he regards as the minimum requirement and indicates he will need a lot of convincing if the services disagree.
"The expectation is that the senior cadre would fall in accordance with the table … there may be reasons why this should not be the case, but these will need to be set out."
There are currently 3,620 middle-ranking civil servants and military officers – including Royal Navy captains, army colonels and RAF group captains. That number needs to have dropped to 3,011 by 2015, and to 2,724 by 2020.
This would mean axing 68 navy posts, 104 in the army and 86 in the airforce.
The next level up are the one and two star officers, and their civil service equivalents. Slater says the numbers holding the one star rank need to be cut from 550 to 461 by 2015, and to 423 by 2020.
For those holding two stars, including rear admirals, major generals and air vice-marshals, the totals need to be cut from 152 to 126, and then to 116.
Changes to the structure and responsibilities of the small number of the military's most senior officers – those with three and four star ranks – have been dealt with in separate reforms published earlier this year by Lord Levene.
This leaked document warns the service chiefs and civil service leaders that there can be no wriggling out of making tough decisions.
"I recognise that you will all be coming from different start points. However [the reforms] should be judged against two truths. There will be an expectation that our numbers of senior officers will drop in broad proportion with overall personnel reductions, and that our current ratio of senior cadre to personnel is too high."
The MoD has already announced plans that could see up to 60,000 military personnel and civil servants axed over the next seven years – it starts the second tranche of a redundancy programme in January.
But no details of what will happen in the higher ranks has been revealed until now. The sheer number of posts that need to go will provoke fresh consternation within the military – and among union leaders who believe the MoD is already suffering the effects of job cuts.
The MoD has been told it has until the spring to finalise its plans for job losses in the senior cadre, though it is unclear at this stage whether the loss of so many posts will inevitably lead to compulsory redundancies.
The MoD said it would not comment on figures in a leaked email.
A spokesperson added: "The current redundancy programme will reduce the number of service personnel, both officers and junior ranks, to ensure the armed forces are structured to best meet current and emerging threats.
"Following the Levene proposals the defence reform unit is conducing a review of senior officer posts to ensure the services are not top heavy."

by taken from

Man found guilty of attempted murder after burying partner alive

A man who attacked his partner by Tasering her and burying her alive in a cardboard box after he tired of her has been found guilty of attempted murder.
Marcin Kasprzak, 25, was convicted following a trial at Leeds crown court but co-defendant Patryk Borys, 18, was cleared. The victim was Michelina Lewandowska, 27, the mother of Kasprzak's child.
She was placed in a box and buried in the ground in woods near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in May. She managed to escape by scratching at the box with her engagement ring.
She told the trial she was in the box for an hour in total before she was able to free herself, and that she was convinced she would die.
The box was covered with earth and a heavy tree branch. After she escaped, she flagged down a passing motorist.
In a statement after the jury returned its verdict, she said the thought of her son gave her the strength to fight her way out of the box and save herself.
Both men admitted kidnap at a previous hearing and Kasprzak admitted possessing a prohibited weapon.
Judge Peter Collier said they would be sentenced on 13 January.
The court heard that Lewandowska, who is Polish, was attacked by fellow Pole Kasprzak after their relationship had ended and he wanted their three-year-old son, Jakub.
He told the court he only meant to scare her and did not intend to kill her. Borys, of Huddersfield, chose not to give evidence.
In a statement read outside court after the verdict, Lewandowska said she still had nightmares about her ordeal.
She said: "During my time inside my shallow grave where I was buried alive, I feared that my life was at an end and I was going to die.
"I prayed to God to help me to survive so that I could look after my young son. The thought of my son gave me the strength to fight my way out of the box and save myself.
"For many years I loved Marcin Kasprzak very much. But after his horrific attack upon me my feelings towards him have turned to hatred.
"I still have nightmares that Marcin will come back to find me and kill me. My only hope is that he can accept that what he did to me was very wrong.
"I really hope that no one will ever experience what I went through on that day in May, at the hands of a man whom I loved and trusted."
She thanked the police for supporting and caring for her.
Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Griffin, of West Yorkshire police's homicide and major inquiry team, commended Lewandowska for her bravery and described Kasprzak as "an unpleasant intimidator of vulnerable women".
She said it had been proved the crime was not a "prank" but "a serious and determined attempt to end a young mother's life".
Griffin said: "The victim in this terrifying ordeal demonstrated tremendous bravery and undoubtedly saved her own life by freeing herself from the box that Kasprzak had buried her in.
"Now that Kasprzak has been found guilty of attempting to murder her, I hope that this brave woman will be able to move on with her life."
The detective continued: "Kasprzak has shown himself to have been an unpleasant intimidator of vulnerable woman and I am pleased that he is now behind bars where he belongs.
"I would like to close by thanking the motorist who went to the victim's aid by stopping for her and helping her to raise the alarm."

by taken from

Sony launches new PS Vita console

PS vita
Shoppers show off their newly-bought PS Vita consoles in Tokyo. Photograph: AP
Sony has ended one of its worst-ever years on a high note, with the launch of its cutting-edge handheld console, the PlayStation Vita, in Japan.
Several Tokyo shops opened at 7am on Saturday to mark the PS Vita's debut, although attention was focused on the Tsutaya store in the trendy shopping district of Shibuya, where the machine's first official customer was presented with his purchase by the world's most high-powered shop assistants, Kaz Hirai and Andrew House – the former is executive deputy president of Sony and chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment, its video games wing, while House is president and CEO of SCE.
The PS Vita was certainly well received in Tokyo: Kensho Monden, one of the first people to buy it, said: "I think its screen, in particular, is very good. I've bought Ridge Racer, and I bought the 3G version [the base model is Wi-Fi enabled only, but in Japan, Wi-Fi hot-spots are surprisingly thin on the ground] so I can play it across the network with my friends."
Hundreds of customers braved freezing temperatures to queue outside Tsutaya for the launch, in a noticeably more orderly manner than is typical for similar launches in the UK, where much fewer shops are involved and the formalities take place when midnight signals the arrival of the designated day.
Many commentators have singled the PS Vita out as a barometer of the state of the games industry, arguing that the rise of mobile phone gaming is eating into its traditional base and suggesting that Sony's replacement for the PSP could struggle as a result.
House contended that: "PS Vita is designed to deliver the ultimate portable entertainment experience. It offers a new group of gaming experiences that were never possible before, through a unique combination of interfaces and features, and brings a wider variety of genres to portable gaming."
It nods heavily towards mobile phones by including native support for social networking staples such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Foursquare, and House singled out an initiative called PlayStation Suite, which will essentially allow developers to deliver more casual games across Android mobile phones and the PS Vita.
PS-vita He said: "We'll be happy to welcome in a new audience and migrate them to a deeper experience." And there are plenty of keen portable gamers out there – the PSP, in seven years on sale, has sold a cumulative 73m units, according to House.
The PS Vita avoids one trap into which Nintendo's initially unsuccessful 3DS fell: it was supported by a healthy portfolio of 24 games – "The largest number of launch titles in PlayStation history," according to House.
Which is an impressive achievement, given that Sony's manufacturing was hit in 2011 by the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the flooding in Thailand and even the outbreak of looting in London, which saw its giant Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield burned to the ground.
UK consumers will have to wait until 22 February to buy the PS Vita, which will cost from £229.99. And even if the mobile phone market does eat into its popularity, Sony took the precaution of buying out Ericsson earlier this year, so that it now wholly owns the Sony Ericsson mobile phone concern.
But with an impressive 5in OLED touch-screen – the largest ever seen on a portable gaming console – and a wealth of features including motion-sensing and a rear touch-pad plus, crucially, dual analogue joysticks to give hardcore gamers the control they crave, the PS Vita has more than enough ammunition to take on the mobile phones and tablets.

Prisoner loses high court challenge over slopping out

A serving prisoner has lost a high court challenge to the continued practice of slopping out that could have forced the government to spend millions on upgrading old jails in England and Wales.
Roger Gleaves, 77, claimed that having to use a bucket as a toilet in his cell at HMP Albany, on the Isle of Wight, was so degrading it amounted to a breach of his human rights.
Gleaves, the self-styled Bishop of Medway now serving time at Brixton prison, claimed £2,600 in damages for the continued practice between 2005 and 2006 despite the fact slopping out was formally abolished in jails in England and Wales in 1996.
He told Mr Justice Hickinbottom that the use of buckets was deplorable because not every prisoner chose to use it as the target for waste.
"Many put newspaper on the floor, use that and throw it out of the window. The use of this type of sanitation in cells is demeaning, utterly despicable in relation to people's behaviour and upsetting to a number of inmates who have never encountered such a practice before," he said. "It should never have been allowed."
Gleaves, who is due to be released in seven months, was present in court to hear his claim dismissed by the judge. Hickinbottom said it failed to pass the high threshold needed to qualify as "degrading and humiliating treatment" banned under the European convention on human rights.
A recent report by the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards revealed that 10 prisons were still using the system in about 2,000 cells because they had not been able to install in-cell sanitation or could not afford the refurbishment costs involved in adapting Victorian buildings.
Gleaves was jailed for 15 years in 1998 for raping two 14-year-old boys. His claim was backed by two other ex-Albany inmates, Peter Kirby and Desmond Grant. More than 328 similar claims for damages were in the pipeline pending the result of Gleaves's challenge.
Gleaves's solicitor has been quoted as saying that the work involved could have left Albany with a £12m bill to provide in-cell sanitation and a further cost to compensate for the cells lost as a result of the refurbishment.
New prisons have a toilet in every cell but in some older prisons inmates operate a call button to ask for their cell to be unlocked so they can use facilities outside. Only one prisoner is let out at a time for between six and 10 minutes, with waits depending on how many are in the queue.

by taken from

Fiend confesses to elevator blaze that killed B'klyn woman who fired him

A Brooklyn fiend repaid the kindness of an elderly woman who hired him for odd jobs by first stealing from her — and then burning her alive when she fired him, police said yesterday.
“I hope he burns in hell!” the victim’s stricken daughter, Sheila Gillespie Hillsman, 49, fumed to pals on Facebook.
Accused sadistic killer Jerome “Jerry’’ Isaac, 47, was reeking of gasoline when he turned himself in to cops more than eight hours after the horrific torching of tragic 73--year-old churchgoer Delores Gillespie.
Cops said Isaac was furious that the postal clerk had refused to pay him for some of the work he’d done at her Prospect Heights apartment after she discovered he’d swiped her kitchenware and DVD player.
TWISTED: Jerome Isaac, the left side of his face horribly scarred, is taken into custody yesterday as the victim’s son, Maurice Gillespie, grieves.
Kendall Rodriguez
TWISTED: Jerome Isaac, the left side of his face horribly scarred, is taken into custody yesterday as the victim’s son, Maurice Gillespie, grieves.
Maurice Gillespie
Benny J. Stumbo
Maurice Gillespie
Seth Gottfried
NIGHTMARE: The body of Delores Gillespie, 73, is wheeled out Saturday from her Prospect Heights building following a heinous murder that left her elevator charred after her killer doussed her with an accelerant and set her ablaze.
Isaac allegedly ambushed the terrified woman at 4:10 p.m. Saturday, standing in the fifth-floor hallway of her building as the elevator doors opened and she started to step off, returning from a trip to Key Foods with bags hanging from her wrists.
Isaac sprayed her with a flammable liquid, used a barbecue lighter to set her ablaze, tossed a Molotov cocktail at her and then sprayed her again for extra measure even though she was already engulfed in flames, screaming in agony, police said.
The madman then fled — first to his nearby apartment at 315 Lincoln Place that he shared with his brother in the gentrifying neighborhood to also try to set it ablaze, police said. He managed to only damage the door frame.
The perp ran next to the rooftop of 571 Lincoln Place, where he hid, thinking he’d been burned — even though he wasn’t — and terrified that he would be easily identified if he was spotted on the street, police said.
He fell asleep on the roof, and when he woke up, Isaac went on the run again, wandering around before finally turning himself in at 12:30 a.m. at Transit District 32, about two miles away in Crown Heights, officials said.
Some of the items he had allegedly used to set ablaze Gillespie were recovered on the Lincoln Place rooftop, authorities said.
“I set the fire in the hallway, and I set the fire in the elevator,” the suspect sniveled to cops after surrendering — although he refused to admit he had also burned Gillespie, police told The Post.
He was charged with first-degree murder and arson.
The victim’s grief-stricken son, Maurice Gillespie, 37, said his trusting mother “just met [Isaac] one day and said he was an honest guy” and hired him.
Her nephew, Rick Causey, 52, who lived with the mother and son, added, “She trusted him” and even gave him a key to the apartment.
But the son said his mom realized that Isaac was a thief at some point earlier this year because she’d be on the street and found herself having to “[buy] her stuff back.”
“He was doing more stealing than cleaning,’’ Causey noted.
After learning of Isaac’s thievery, Gillespie refused to pay him for at least some of his work. A furious Isaac then left a note on the family’s door last summer with a list of chores for which he was demanding payment, relatives said.
Not getting any satisfaction, he began a campaign of terror against Gillespie, kin said.
He was harassing her, chasing her down the street and cursing at her,” Maurice said, adding he’d seen Isaac hanging around across the street from his mother’s apartment at 203 Underhill Ave. three days ago.
Neighbor Dorinda Thomas, 56, said Gillespie was “desperately afraid” of the suspect.
“She knew that something was going to happen to her in that building,” Thomas said. “Everyone knew this.”
Still, cops said Gillespie never filed an official complaint again Isaac, who claimed that she owed him $2,100 for work he’d supposedly done.
But Maurice’s girlfriend, Linda Moses, noted bitterly, “She was just trying to help [Isaac] out, and here we are, for being kind.”
Gillespie, who worked at the General Post Office in East New York, and Isaac were never romantically involved, relatives and cops said.
The suspect’s chilling attack on his victim was caught on video tape and showed him allegedly wearing gloves and a dust mask pulled up on top of his head when he pounced, police said.
His spraying of Gillespie was methodical, ensuring that the beloved Gillespie, known as a local activist who helped the homeless and spoke out passionately against crime in her neighborhood, was covered head to toe in the flammable liquid, police said.
“She’s cowering, trying to protect her face with her hands,’’ said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, describing footage of Gillespie’s final moments.
Isaac made statements incriminating himself when he was under questioning, sources said.
“He was giving some of this stuff up,” a source said
One police source called the scene as nothing less than “torture.’’
Neighbors said the accused maniac, who had no prior arrests, was known locally as a loner.
“He’s always out riding his bike. He collects empty cans and bottles Sometime, he’ll have a big bag of them . . . He was never friendly. I’ve never seen him talking to anyone,” said Isaac’s neighbor, Eric Charles, 42.
“When I came home I saw all the police. One told me what he did in the elevator and said he did something here too. It’s crazy.”
Causey, Gillespie’s nephew, blamed himself partly for the tragedy, saying he usually walked the victim to and from the street when she went shopping.
“I should have been there,” he said.
Causey said he was watching TV when he heard a commotion and looked into the hallway but that cops and firemen forced him back into the apartment.
He said cops questioned him at the 77th Precinct station house until 9 p.m. Saturday before letting him go.
Neighbors described Gillespie as a “wonderful” person who always looked out for her neighbors and community.
“Everybody in the neighborhood would tell you, anything she had in her house she’d give you,” said Thomas, 56, adding that Gillespie was her nephew’s godmother.
“She was a wonderful lady, you understand.”
Margie Grooms, 67, who lives on the block, said Gillespie was a “community activist.”
Another neighbor who would only say her name was Rose, said Gillespie “was a lady who looked out for everybody. Whoever did this had no heart.”


Chinese Fugitive Was TV Actor For 13 Years

A Chinese actor who played a detective in a television drama has been arrested after spending 13 years on the run from the police.

Ji Siguang is accused of attacking a policeman in the city of Qiqihar in northern China with three other men. The officer's gun was stolen during the assault.
Since then, Mr Ji is alleged to have gone on the run, changed his name to Zhang Guofeng, and built a career as one of China's most successful character actors.
He has appeared in more than 30 television dramas, including a hugely popular series named Lurk in 2009.
The actor, Zhang Guofeng (nee Ji Siguang)
Zhang Guofeng went for years without being recognised during his roles on television
Other roles included a spy in the series The East is Red, 1949, and a Qing-dynasty eunuch in Miracle-working Doctor Dadaogong.
According to China's state media, Ji Siguang was generally cast in parts with few lines, but was much loved by directors for his loyalty.
Mr Ji was finally tracked by police in southern China where he was filming a new costume drama named Shaolin Tigers in which he portrays a Buddhist monk.
He has reportedly admitted his involvement in the 1998 assault and confessed he had always been scared he would be recognised.

by Holly Williams taken from

NASA Satellite May Have Found The Smallest Known Black Hole

An international team of astronomers utilizing NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), believe that they’ve identified a candidate for the smallest known black hole. Using the RXTE, which detects X-rays coming from cosmic sources, the astronomers were able to identify a specific X-ray pattern – nicknamed a “heartbeat” – that indicates that a black hole is present in a binary system with the ordinary star. The “heartbeat” pattern is caused by the regular cycles of matter accumulated into the black hole from its neighboring star.
As the stellar matter (mostly gas) circles the event horizon of the black hole, its heated up to temperatures of millions of degrees, a process which causes X-rays to be emitted. The explusion of X-rays then temporarily pushes the gas away from the black hole, which is what causes the cyclical heartbeat-type pattern.
If the astronomers’ calculations are correct, this black hole is located about 16,000 to 56,000 light years away from Earth (a more precise distance hasn’t yet been determined). The black hole itself is only about three times the mass of the Sun, which means that the original star was just barely big enough to form a black hole. Our Sun, by contrast, lacks sufficient mass to form a black hole at the end of its life-cycle.
The astronomers plan to use this new data in conjunction with a similar X-ray pattern from another small black hole. As they continue to use that data and new data from the RXTE, they hope to learn more about smaller black holes and confirm that this X-ray heartbeat is really the sign of one.

by Alex Knapp taken from

Computers now smart enough to write fiction, design snack foods

Computers have taken over an astonishing array of tasks humans used to do.
They fly our planes, give us directions, recommend books, set us up on dates. But can they tell us a good story?
Meet Brutus, a computer programmed to write fiction. Through a series of mathematical equations, its programmers taught the program the basics of plot, setting, and dialogue — as well as something about literary style.
“There's a certain bag of tricks that Brutus had for saying things at the right time to convince the reader that 'boy there is something really deep linguistically going on here,’" said programmer Selmer Bringsjord of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The result is pretty convincing. But Bringsjord insists that the computer can’t be considered creative.
“The machine is just doing what you've programmed it to do,” he said. “If a machine is creative, the designer of the system — knowing the algorithms involved, data structure — is completely mystified by how the output came out. In my opinion, if that's not the case, then we're just cloning our own intelligence.”
Stephen Thaler said he’s cleared that hurdle. His Creativity Machine is an artificial neural network that’s able to learn by itself. Thaler’s breakthrough is that he occasionally disrupts the Creativity Machine by introducing mathematical noise that trips up the system, forcing it to generate new solutions to problems.
“And therein is where discovery takes place,” he said. “It's not in the rote memories that we have committed to memory, it's in the generalization of all those memories into concepts and plans of action.”
The Creative Machine has designed versions of all sorts of products from snack foods to music to military systems.
Will we all soon be out of a job? Many of us, maybe.
But Bringsjord is unconvinced that a computer will ever be able to out-think a creative person.
“Creativity is very a tough nut to crack," he said.
PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy -- so let "Studio 360" steer yo

taken from

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Great 134 billion dollar Bond Theft Mystery

It could be the biggest, most explosive story in modern history. We are just starting to put the pieces together and understand what is going on in the occult financial geopolitical scene, and how a 117-nation alliance is working to free the Earth from financial tyranny.
[UPDATE, NEXT MORNING: On the same day this article came out, Benjamin Fulford was allegedly detained in a hotel against his will by a "CIA-type group"... and his life may be in danger.
This caused him to miss his appearance on a TV show he was scheduled to be on. The videos are at the end. This could be serious. We pray for Ben's well-being and encourage you to help spread the word. Publicity is protection!
UPDATE, 12:44 AM SAME NIGHT: We just found out that Fulford is alive and OK. He may have been held in the hotel for his own protection, but we do not know yet. More information will follow as soon as we get it and will be updated below.]
As I write these words, the average person is coming face-to-face with disturbing, if not dire news.
Not only could the disastrous financial debacle of 2008 be about to repeat itself, it may even be a lot worse this time.
As of November 28, 2011, media outlets announced that we could be as little as ten days away from a complete collapse of the Euro -- and with it, much of the rest of the world's economies could be pulled down as well.
Yet another grandiose "bailout" maneuver was used to buy some time -- but this has done little to address the gnawing unease in the public, particularly as the saber-rattling in the Middle East is again reaching a fever pitch.
This, at least, is the mainstream media's perspective on what is going on -- and thankfully, it is completely baseless.
In classic Orwellian terms -- such as "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" -- the mainstream media's "Global Financial Collapse" cry of doom may very well be the best thing that's ever happened to us.
At least in any known, recorded history.

You are about to dive into a story that, for quite some time now, has been nothing but a great-sounding idea -- a wonderful "what if." Almost nothing of this story could be found in the mainstream media.
However, the bizarre origin of the story did briefly find its way into FOX's Glenn Beck show in 2009.
I highly recommend you watch this first, as it will draw you directly into the mystery -- which flickered for the briefest moment in mainstream media, only to disappear into shuddering silence:
Notice that Beck says FOX contacted the Treasury Department about this case, and received an official blow-off letter in response -- basically saying they had "no comment" on this 134 billion dollars in US bonds, seized at the Italian border, as it was "evidence in an ongoing investigation."
Beck then goes on to put up the numbers of which countries hold the largest numbers of US bonds. In order, they are China at 763.5 billion, Japan at 685.9 billion, the United Kingdom at 152.8 billion, Russia at 137.0 billion and Brazil at 126.0 billion.
Based on the public, unclassified numbers, 134.5 billion dollars in US bonds could only have been produced by Russia, the UK, Japan or China... no one else. The amount of money is so huge that if Russia produced it, they would only have 2.5 billion dollars in US bonds left over!
Joe Wiesenthal, the editor of, said that whether this was a government dumping its bonds or a counterfeit operation, it was "gigantic" in scope and "unlike anything we've ever seen -- not just in size but also in sophistication."
According to Wiesenthal, in order to counterfeit these bonds, "it would be the kind of technology you would expect only a government to have." Wiesenthal also believes the 1934 issuance date on the bonds suggests they may be elaborate forgeries.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can do some digging and find all the most significant articles published online about this strange story when it first broke in June, 2009.
Here is the original Bloomberg article on the scandal:
Here is a Daily Kos summary of links describing what may have happened:
Here is an Asia Times article on the issue, which has a lot more detail:
In these two articles, “The Underground Investor” analyzed the evidence and clearly established how strange this whole story really was:

Ever since this bizarre event happened, the only follow-up to the story has been in the form of an elaborate amount of 'insider' information leaked by Benjamin Fulford -- the former Asia-Pacific bureau chief for Forbes Magazine -- on a week-by-week basis. 
Finally, the lawsuit at the epicenter of this investigation has now become a tangible reality -- validating everything Fulford has been saying about this mysterious case since it originally started.
Looming storm clouds threatened to demolish Fulford's credibility in a single crash of lightning as the all-important date of November 15th, 2011 came and went -- with nothing to show for it -- after years of fanfare and buildup on his websites.
However, on November 23, 2011, the clouds parted. A vast, 111-page legal complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. This complaint is now a provable matter of public record... as you are about to see.
I have since discovered hundreds of pages of intricate, complex material to read, firsthand eyewitnesses to interview, and official documents to scrutinize. There is no lack of "homework" to be done for those who are interested.

Here is the search window that opens up when you go to and register as a user for eight cents a page. This website is a public service that allows you to search for any and all legal cases that have been filed in America:
Once you've set up your user account, type in "Keenan, Neil" under "Party Name", and you will then see this:
Notice the fifth item down on the list... 2011-cv-8500, filed on November 23, 2011. That's the one. You can then click into it from there, and one of the screens you will pull up is the following:
Did you catch that list of defendants?
If the amount of money being sued for isn't stunning enough, that list of defendants should attract a great deal of attention -- for it includes the Italian Republic, the Italian Financial Police, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the World Economic Forum, Ban Ki-Moon (the head of the UN), and the United Nations itself.
What the hell is going on here?
If you don't want creepy government spies watching you, and you don't want to pay eight cents a page, here's the entire PDF file as it appears once you download it off the PACER website -- parked locally here at our website, Divine Cosmos:

Dan McCue started asking the same questions you may now be thinking about... and as a result, he was the first mainstream journalist to cover this story in Courthouse News Service, a nationwide news service for lawyers and the news media.
McCue isn't necessarily convinced -- the article is entitled "Bizarre Claim for $1 Trillion" -- but given that this is a real case, he is certainly interested enough to write about it.

Here's an overview of what McCue wrote:

MANHATTAN (CN) - An American expatriate in Bulgaria claims the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the Office of International Treasury Control and the Italian government conspired with a host of others to steal more than $1.1 trillion in financial instruments intended to support humanitarian purposes.

The 111-page federal complaint involves a range of entities common to conspiracy theorists, including the Vatican Illuminati, the Masons, the "Trilateral Trillenium Tripartite Gold Commission," and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Plaintiff Neil Keenan claims he was entrusted in 2009 with the financial instruments -- which included U.S. Federal Reserve notes worth $124.5 billion, two Japanese government bonds with a combined face value of $19 billion, and one U.S. "Kennedy" bond with a face value of $1 billion -- by an entity called the Dragon Family, which is a group of several wealthy and secretive Asian families.
"The Dragon family abstains from public view and knowledge, but, upon information and belief, acts for the good and better benefit of the world in constant coordination with higher levels of global financial organizations, in particular, the Federal Reserve System," Keenan claims.
"During the course of its existence over the last century, the Dragon family has accumulated great wealth by having provided the Federal Reserve Bank and the United States Government with asset assignments of gold and silver via certain accounts held in Switzerland, for which it has received consideration in the form of a variety of Notes, Bonds and Certificates such as those described ... that are an obligation of the Federal Reserve System."
Keenan says that with accrued interest the instruments are now worth more than $1 trillion. He says the family designated him as its principal in an effort to select certain registered and authorized Private Placement Investment Programs (PPPs) for the benefit of unspecified global humanitarian efforts.
In his remarkable complaint, Keenan claims that the U.S. government [received] enormous amounts of money -- delivered in gold and other precious metals -- from the Dragon Family many years ago, and that the money was placed into the Federal Reserve System for the benefit and underwriting support of the dollar, "which was to become and currently remains the global reserve currency"....
The complaint alleges a complicated history with many moving parts and scores of internationally known and unknown characters, the sum of which is that Keenan claims he was entrusted with billions of dollars in bonds by the Dragon Family....
[These instruments were then stolen as two Japanese agents attempted to cross the border from Italy into Switzerland with them, contained in the suitcase you see in the image at the top of this article.]
[Keenan] claims that as the conspiracy continued to unfold, various high level officials repeatedly offered him a bribe of $100 million to "release" the instruments without disclosing their theft to the Dragon family, and to allow the instruments to be converted to a so-called UN "Sovereign Program" wholly under the auspices, protection and umbrella of the sovereign immunity enjoyed by the defendants.

Other defendants include UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Giancarlo Bruno, who is identified as head of the banking industry for the World Economic Forum, Italy's ambassador to the UN Cesare Maria Ragaflini, Ray C. Dam, president of the Office of International Treasury Control, and David A. Sale, the deputy chief of the council for the cabinet of the OITC.
Keenan seeks the return of the stolen instruments, punitive damages and court costs on multiple claims of fraud, breach of contract and violation of international law.
He is represented by William H. Mulligan Jr., with Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt of White Plains, N.Y.
Interested? I encourage you to visit Courthouse News Service, as McCue does a great job of summarizing the rest of the case. This is just an overview.

Courthouse News Service didn't quite have the stomach to quote one of the most interesting paragraphs in the entire complaint... but I do. This is where the whole story really started taking shape for me:
Upon information and belief, these Bonds [held by the Dragon Family] have values ranging in the many Thousands of Trillions of United States Dollars, a relatively small portion of which is involved in the claims giving rise to this action.
Each of these currencies, such as the DFFI [Dragon Family Financial Instruments] involved in this action, was and remains duly registered within the Federal Reserve System -- and are directly verifiable by the Federal Reserve through its efficient verification system and screening process.
Thousands of trillions of dollars? You have GOT to be kidding me! As soon as I read that, I had to know more... because I had enough information to be convinced that this was not a spurious lawsuit. I immediately lined up an interview with Fulford to clear this up.
The bottom line is that the Dragon Family intended for these bonds to be stolen. They represented only a small percentage of the overall asset base... all of which is clandestinely registered within the Federal Reserve and the Bank of International Settlements!
Fulford gave an introduction to the story in this interview -- and I then found out much, much more as time went on.
This was an elaborate sting operation that has brought us to where we are today -- where a vast international alliance of 117 countries now has a legal way to end the financial tyranny of the Old World Order.

I have been working solidly on this case, every day, for over three weeks now -- which in my current life seems like an eternity, given all the other balls I'm juggling at the same time.
The amount of information to assimilate and correlate, and the complexity of fitting the pieces all together, is staggering.
I have now been in extensive contact with Neil Keenan, the principal plaintiff in this case, as well as Keith Scott, who is also mentioned in the complaint. Scott is an expert in this utterly secretive world of trading between central banks -- and is well aware of the vast wealth underwriting them, all held in the strictest secrecy.
Keenan has never worked for any government or clandestine agency. He is a businessman who ultimately became acquainted with the Dragon Family -- the former ruling party of China, prior to the arrival of Communism -- and gained their trust.
I have now personally surveyed over 300 different photographs and dozens of separate documents Keenan sent me, related to this case -- including the now-infamous Book of Maklumat. They are extremely complex -- and extremely compelling. This all appeared after I conducted the interview with Fulford you are about to hear... and read.
This whole story is true. Devastatingly true.
It is the single biggest real problem the Powers that Were have ever had. That also means it's extremely good news for everyone else.
In one particularly remarkable case of personal validation, I emailed Keenan with a description from one of my highest-placed insiders about what the boxes that contained these bonds actually looked like. None of this information had ever been put online.
Less than 15 minutes later, Keenan sent me dozens of pictures that precisely matched the description I had just given him. I was absolutely stunned. There is no possible way he could have faked something like that within fifteen minutes.
It is not yet clear whether I will release any of these images. The last thing I would want to do is to damage this case in any way, and it may also violate international laws -- giving the loyal opposition an easy way to attack me.
However, we do have at least one image that is safe to share. Here, again, is the photo released by the Italian media after these bonds were first seized:
Let's not waste any more time. Here's the link to download the 98-meg, high-quality MP3 file of this stunning, 98-minute interview... followed by the transcript, which I have loaded up with links you can check out yourself:
What you've just read is quite stunning... but it still turned out to only be the beginning of the story.
I was able to grill Fulford and get a lot more information out of him than I've ever seen before. However, once I made contact with the people involved in this lawsuit, I found out there was much more to the story than what Fulford has reported so far.
In Part Two I will give a proper historical overview of how and why these vast assets were seized and held by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of International Settlements... beginning in 1921 with Emperor Hirohito's trip to the United Kingdom.
This interview was truly just the beginning -- and much of what has delayed me so much in getting this posted has been the process of doing all the follow-up. I decided to break it into two parts so you don't have to keep waiting.

It is also important to quote a bit of Fulford's two most recent blogs -- as the latest actions by the United States have accelerated the timetable wherein the "mass arrests" may occur:
The US Senate and Obama claiming the right to murder and imprison Americans without trial was a fatal mistake (Dec. 5th)
The word is that the Pentagon, the agencies and the militias are on the brink of taking violent action against President Obama and the Senators who claimed the right to kill and/or indefinitely imprison Americans without trial.
[DW: "Violent action" may sound a bit too strong, as all he's talking about here is arrests at gunpoint -- probably without shots ever having to be fired.]
The criminal cabal in Washington D.C. and Wall Street may be able to pretend they are setting up a fascist/totalitarian dictatorship in the US for a while longer, but no serious armed group is going to support them.
The same is true in Europe, where Freemason P2 lodgers and Bilderbergers will make a move towards fascist control this week, and will seem to be on the offensive -- but will ultimately fail.
The simple fact of the matter is that these fascists simply do not have any reality to back up the numbers they are putting into their financial computers to bribe people and hire bully boys.
They are mathematically doomed.
The awareness in the thinking part of the population of Western countries has reached a critical mass. The group that is sitting brainwashed in front of their TVs is irrelevant, because the contents of their TV mind-programming will change once police and the military remove the criminals now occupying the corporate media.
Anyone who still believes there is an ounce of truth or decency in the large corporate media establishments has to ask themselves why these organizations do not write 911 truth or about the murder of 2 million Iraqis or about the vast bribes most top Washington D.C. corporate government officials have received.
They must ask why people are being railroaded into an agenda of war against Iran as a precursor to World War 3.
More than anything else, they need to ask themselves why the so-called governments of the West do not make any serious future plans for the planet other than fomenting war.
In signs of imminent revolution, the Senators who voted to kill and imprison Americans without trial are being confronted in their offices by angry constituents. The military has told Obama to buzz off, which is exactly what he did by running off to Hawaii....

Earlier today as I write this piece, Fulford just posted his next update into this fascinating, ever-changing story. Here is a small excerpt from his paid blog:
Cabal struggles desperately to create fascist world government as multiple criminal investigations zero in on them
The fascist cabal known as the Bilderbergers, CFR, committee of 300 etc., is desperately and without hope trying to start WW3 and install a fascist world government in an attempt to pre-empt criminal investigations closing in on them from all sides.
Their efforts will fail because the Pentagon and the agencies in the US (with the exception of homeland Gestapo) are preparing to remove them from power, according to CIA and other sources.
For example, multiple investigations are closing in on alleged President Obama, including one for illegally declaring war on Libya. A count among US representatives show the votes necessary to impeach him are there, US law enforcement officials say.
In addition, evidence of bribery and other forms of illegally tampering with government is being compiled against George Soros, among others. There is also a lot going on under and on the surface in Europe, Japan and the Middle East....
In the US, as mentioned last week, the Obama regime has asserted the right to murder and imprison Americans without due process, meaning he has declared the US to be a fascist dictatorship. Again, it looks on the surface like the plans for a world fascist government are proceeding smoothly.
Fortunately for the rest of the human race, the fascist power grab is really just a sign of desperation....
The problem is that almost the entire leadership structure in Washington D.C. is corrupt and compromised, but people in the Pentagon and the agencies are so used to taking orders that they do not know what to do when their leaders become dysfunctional.
For example, there are enough votes in the US Congress and Senate now to impeach Obama, but the problem is nobody can agree on a replacement.
The various corruption investigations against the Obama regime can remove him [and the greater architecture of corruption behind the scenes] from power, but nobody knows what to do next.
The only answer is for the military to set up a temporary government headed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff until the garbage can be removed from Washington D.C. and Wall Street. The military rightly claim that armies are not good at governing. However, they are good at cleaning up a mess -- and restoring constitutional order.
The US military also worry about being able to meet the payroll, but the backers of the new financial system have already promised generous financing to ensure a restoration of US economic might -- and a gradual transition of the military industrial complex into something that can be self-supporting and good for the planet.


Thirty years' worth of dedicated research into the greatest hidden mysteries of science, and of the Universe, led to the creation of my magnum opus, the encyclopedic The Source Field Investigations, which debuted as a New York Times bestseller in August.
In this work, I reveal compelling proof that life on Earth is being guided by a Universal consciousness I call the Source Field -- the ultimate author of space, time, matter, energy and biological life.
This is no longer a speculative, "woo woo", "New Age" discussion -- it is squarely rooted in a great wealth of scientific facts that have never been fully understood.
The Universe is not a "dead", unthinking and unfeeling void. It is vast, vibrant and full of life -- written directly into the quantum level.
In this book, I reveal that dozens of ancient cultures around the world were given prophecies about a coming Golden Age of peace and prosperity. The focal-point for when this would come about was the year 2012.
Regardless of what else may or may not happen around this time, it is remarkable to see the real-world evidence of this mass, international uprising against the Powers that Were coinciding so neatly with prophecies that are thousands of years old.
Some people do get it. The Source Field wants to let you know that it exists. Many people have sent in testimonials about the incredible synchronicities that begin happening in their lives once they find out about this stuff.
If you're laughing right now, it's only because you haven't had this happen to you yet. Or, more likely, the 'confirmations' have happened to you, but you simply blow it off.
We all grow up in an educational system that demands we be "right", and punishes us with bad grades and "failure" if we are "wrong." For this same reason, we all have strong conditioning to avoid shame.
Now we have the science to prove that this is not ridiculous nonsense. The case stands perfectly well on its own without the addition of the Fulford / Dragon Family / Keenan material -- but I see all of this as part of one vast, interconnected tapestry.
So many people are living in fear and terror of the future. We now have the science to prove that things are getting better, and in fact they must get better -- it's written into the design of the Universe, and is a fundamental aspect of what we're now going through.
I believe we are being intelligently guided through a planetary awakening at this time -- and as we head into 2012, it seems that the public downfall of the Old World Order will be a key part of that process.

You can grab your copy of The Source Field Investigations today at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound or any bookstore near you -- in hardcover, audiobook or ebook form. The online price is still being held below 20 dollars by the publisher as a Christmas special.
With this new information I've shared as context, the story becomes even more exciting... and extremely cutting-edge.
Your purchase of these and other products on this site gives us critically-needed financing to continue in this campaign to transform the planet. For that, I honor you and I thank you for your support.
I would also recommend you check out our previous post, if you haven't already seen it -- as in it I released a new 20-minute video with good production value that is chock-full of great material on personal growth that can help you in these changing times!

As of 1:44 AM, I went back in and re-read this whole document, looking for any minor things that needed cleaning up. I found one place where the paragraph spacings needed to be corrected -- and I am about to upload it now.
Exactly 1777 hits had reached this article already -- just since I posted it -- and these numbers keep popping out as one of the ways the Source Field conveys messages:
It's not going to convince everyone, but it was interesting -- so I thought I'd mention it!

Just when you thought this story wasn't dramatic or overwhelming enough, now we have even more to add to it.
Fulford was supposed to appear on's popular online show, "State Emergency Committee," on December 13th -- during the exact same time that this article came out. I had already telegraphed that it was imminent -- and tremendous in scope.
However, the producers of the show were informed that Fulford was being detained by a "CIA kind of group" in a hotel, against his will. They suspected that his life may be in danger -- which could be true, but it is too early to know.
Here is a short synopsis of what they said, from one translator:
Here is a longer version of the same video, complete with the opening sequence of the show, performed by a different translator. Unfortunately, the CC overlays other text that is already on-screen, making it a mess -- so just hit the CC button to turn it off:

I do not believe Fulford to be the type of person who would lie about this or stage such an event. If anything happens to him, this story will explode into view much faster than it already is.
The genie is out of the bottle. You cannot stop this. Stand down and do not harm us. This is not your planet to abuse anymore.
Spread the word. Tell everyone you know about this story. Share the link. Write. Blog. Comment. Publicity is protection. Thank you!


Dear Mr. Wilcock,
I am very concerned for Ben’s safety.  He has been a friend of mine for two years and I see him traveling and risking his life in order to provide his readers with stories. I know more than I tell, but he is a very gentle, concerned person -- and he really wants to see the deserts green.
I pray that what we are hearing is not happening -- and if so, I pray they release him safely.
I fear that Benjamin is being held because of his mentioning of holding the Book of Codes and Maklumat.
This simply is not true.
Not even I have them -- but they are in safe hands.
[DW: All I've seen is low-resolution JPEG images of it that are not even sharp enough to actually make out any of the codes. I will not be releasing them, nor ever planned to. I do not wish to get in trouble... just to report on a public story.
Those named in this suit should be smart enough to know that if they create martyrs, they will have a much more serious problem on their hands. You are being offered a settlement. Take it.]
So if this is it, please let Benjamin go -- so he can return to his rightful position, advising the world of its wrongs.

I just got word from Neil Keenan that he is now on the phone with Ben and he is alive and OK. That is literally all the info I have.
The most probable guess I have seen out there right now is that Ben was actually being detained for his own safety against another threat -- of which there have been several.
More information will be provided as it comes in.

This story just gets stranger and stranger. Fulford told Keenan he just forgot about the show and went off for a happy trip to the mountains with his wife, then came home to sleep.
The network apparently was supposed to call and remind him, but forgot. They reached him on the phone at some point, but by that point it was too late, he was too far away and he couldn't go.
Ben's side of the story, as he explained it to Keenan, was that "the hotel incident story was not accurate, and was totally made up by the network."
This may be true, and it may not be true. Keenan doesn't know, and there is no way for any of us to know at this point. Even if the network admits they made it up, we can't prove that is actually a true statement either. Fulford has had strenuous threats lately.
Let's be glad that Fulford is alive and well. If he was narco-interrogated and/or threatened and sworn to secrecy, and the network told the truth, that's all the more reason for us to double and redouble our efforts to get this astonishing story out into public view.
It's time to take the planet back. This was a very healthy reminder for me of the stakes. I will not rest until humanity is free.

by David Wilcock taken from