As the carnage in Syria worsened, Russia signaled a new-found willingness Monday to consider international intervention while the world’s nations planned a United Nations vote aimed at exposing the inaction of the great powers.
Syrian guns pounded anti-government strongholds in the opposition stronghold of Homs and the Arab League called for UN blue helmets to “to supervise implementation of a cease-fire.”
In Moscow, the shift indicated Russia was moving from defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its primary Arab ally, to managing a transition.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia, “together with other permanent members of the UN Security Council, (is) ready to promote the dialogue and an agreement.”
After twice vetoing Security Council resolutions condemning the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protestors by forces loyal to Mr. Assad, Russia may be abandoning its absolute defence of the Syrian regime.
But Russia’s call for a ceasefire prior to any conference could prove impossible to achieve.
The UK has been warned its credit rating may be cut in future, potentially increasing borrowing costs.
The statement from the Moody’s ratings agency followed concerns about the possible impact of the eurozone crisis on the UK’s growth prospects.
It put the UK on “negative outlook”, implying a 30% chance of losing its AAA credit rating within 18 months.
France and Austria have also been warned and Italy, Spain and Portugal’s ratings have been lowered.
Chancellor George Osborne said the comments from the US agency was not a criticism of his government’s economic policy.
Fancy a quick scuba lesson before going on a last-minute trip to Hawaii? Paying in cash for a snorkel? Just shaved mustache because it doesn’t go with a dive mask? Big Brother will spot a terrorist: “See something, say something” policy in action.
The 25 flyers issued by the FBI and the Department of Justice give no mere Orwell creeps. Every area seems to be bursting with bombers: airports, beauty shops, construction sites, banks and internet cafes. Your tattoos master meets a bunch of them every day. Terrorists have taken to your favorite shop with train models across the street – remember how you pressed your nose against the glass after school? Now press harder: see something, say something, do something for your country.
The former head of the British police has introduced crowd control tactic of “kettling” in Bahrain, where he has been hired by al-Khalifa regime to crush dissent.
The Bahraini regime, whose police used excessive force and torture in its brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters last year, has employed British police assistant commissioner John Yates in an attempt to both clear the name of its brutal police forces and crush the one-year old revolution of people against the ruling family.
In a show of solidarity with the regime thugs, John Yates, who resigned last year from his post at Scotland Yard in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, said “Bahraini police had faced extraordinary provocation during last year’s turmoil”.
“On January 30 US President Barack Obama met with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in the Oval Office at the White House for an unprecedented private meeting between the heads of state, a tête-à-tête initiated by Washington,” Rick Rozoff wrote on Stop NATO website on Friday.
Rozoff, who has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for 40 years, added that though the details of the meeting were not divulged, there has been speculation that Obama summoned the “ambitious and erratic” Georgian leader to Washington to propose “a quid pro quo.”
The American public has been told that the Iraq War is a thing of the past. Even still, the US Department of Defense is asking the federal government for almost $3 billion for “activities” in a country that they shouldn’t be in.
The last US troops were supposedly withdrawn from Iraq just before 2012 began, but after years of a war that abruptly ended this past December, the Pentagon still wants billions to continue doing…something in Iraq. According to the latest budget request, the DoD think around $2.9 billion should cover the cost of “Post-Operation NEW DAWN (OND)/Iraq Activities.”
In a report published Monday by Wired.com, they acknowledge that the funding that the Pentagon wants now is almost as bizarre as the war itself. For nearly $3 billion, the DoD says that will be able to afford “Finalizing transition” from Iraq. Only two months earlier, however, President Obama celebrated the end of the Iraqi mission. At the time, some critics called the ending of the war as more of a catapult for Obama re-election campaign than anything else. Now with the revelation that the US Defense Department still wants billions for a war America is told it isn’t fighting, the alleged ending of Operation New Dawn seems just as questionable as its mysterious beginning.
After “ending” the war last year, the US government handed Iraqi operations over to the State Department. Three billion dollars — the amount that the DoD wants for a war they aren’t waging — makes up around one-ninth of the State Department’s entire annual budget. In 2012, the Pentagon had asked for $11 billion to fight the War in Iraq — which was, at the time, an actual war.
But as the death toll stands at over 4,000 US casualties after nearly eight years overseas, it is clear by the latest cash request that the US, as many had expected but had not hoped, is not ready to just walk away just yet.
Should I discover tomorrow that I have advanced, life-threatening cancer, I won’t go rushing to the doctors for a heavily invasive course of medical treatment. No, I will shut up my London surgery, head to my home in Norfolk, stock up on gin and tonic and have a jolly good time until I meet my end.
Like most doctors, I understand that much of the care we offer patients who have serious, life-threatening illnesses is ultimately futile.
Worse, it can involve many months of gruelling treatments that might possibly extend the length of one’s life, but do nothing for its quality.
But while we give that care to patients, the vast majority of doctors I know would not want this for themselves. Yet this fact has long been taboo in the medical world. The silence has been shattered by Ken Murray, professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California.
He hit the headlines worldwide last month after publishing an essay in the online magazine Zocalo Public Square, which argues that most practising doctors would not put themselves through ‘life-saving’ interventions that are big on promises, but small on success, and involve great pain and distress.
The doctors won’t tell this to their patients, though. Instead, they encourage them to take the treatments.
The news just got grimmer for customers of bankrupt broker-dealer MF Global Inc. The latest estimate of shortfall in funds to pay back customer claims is at least $1.6 billion, the bankruptcy trustee said on Feb. 10.
James Giddens, the trustee overseeing the liquidation of MF Global, has until now estimated the amount of missing customer accounts at $1.2 billion. However, last Friday Giddens said he “believes there is at least a $1.6 billion gap between the value of the trustee’s estimate of potentially allowable commodities claims and the assets that are currently under the trustee’s control,” according to a report from the trustee’s website.
The newest estimates were made after the trustee was able to comb through the majority of the firm’s transactions made during the week before its collapse.
As large numbers of Bahraini troops marched into what was once known as the Pearl Roundabout, the site of the largest protests in Bahrain in 2011 that was eventually destroyed when the regime declared martial law, fears arose of a repeat of the bloody crackdown.
Except apparently for Bahrain’s King, Hamad al-Khalifa, who insisted in an interview with Der Spiegel that there “is no ‘opposition’ in Bahrain,” pointing out that there was no official recognition of such a thing in the Bahraini constitution and accusing those who criticize him of “bad manners.”
Instead, Khalifa railed against Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose similar crackdown against his own population is ongoing. Khalifa insisted that Assad should listen to the majority of Syrians when he decides whether or not to step down.
Of course, Khalifa never listened to the majority of the Bahraini public, even when a near voting majority of the civilian population was in the streets demanding his ouster in favor of free elections. He also defended his request, which led to the Saudi invasion of Bahrain last year to help with the crackdown, saying he was concerned Iran would randomly invade over the protesters otherwise.
Iran never threatened to invade Bahrain. The same cannot be said of Syria, however, where Bahrain’s GCC has been leading the push for an Arab League invasion of Syria.
Addressing the latest round of stalled peace talks, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that no future talks will take place with Israel unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to a full settlement freeze.
Israel had imposed a partial freeze in 2010, but cancelled it in the face of overwhelming opposition among its far-right coalition members. Abbas claimed Netanyahu had offered a “government only” freeze but that 90 percent of the construction was actually privately organized and only state subsidized.
Netanyahu, for his part, angrily condemned Abbas, saying that the Palestinian President had rejected the idea of peace by agreeing on a unity government with Hamas, saying it amounted to embracing Iran, a nation which Israel is constantly threatening to attack.
“Abbas prefers to link to the terror organization Hamas,” insisted Netanyahu. Talks have been almost non-existent between Israel and the PA at any rate, and the repeated threats to end talks to punish Abbas for reconciling with Hamas seem mostly meaningless.
Samuel L. Jackson said he voted for President Obama because of his color: “I voted for Barack because he was black. ’Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them,” the actor says in an outspoken interview in the March issue of Ebony.
Jackson sounds off on his feelings for Obama to writer Kevin Powell, saying: “That’s American politics, pure and simple. [Obama’s] message didn’t mean [bleep] to me. In the end, he’s a politician. I just hoped he would do some of what he said he was gonna do. I know politicians say [bleep]; they lie. ’Cuz they want to get elected.”
Repeatedly using the N-word, Jackson added that Obama’s philosophical presence had been universally appealing: “When it comes down to it, they wouldn’t have elected a [bleep]. Because, what’s a [bleep]? A [bleep] is scary. Obama ain’t scary at all. [Bleeps] don’t have beers at the White House. [Bleeps] don’t let some white dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A [bleep] would have stopped the meeting right there and said, ‘Who the [bleep] said that?’ I hope Obama gets scary in the next four years, ’cuz he ain’t gotta worry about getting re-elected.”
New York City’s police union is demanding more information about the effects of toxic debris from the 9/11 attacks.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association called on the city to release all data about officers who suffered cancer after responding at the World Trade Center at a news conference on Sunday.
The union also showed the uniform worn that day by Officer Alonzo Harris.
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov won a new five-year term by capturing 97 per cent of the vote, election officials said today, but a Western expert called the vote a democratic sham.
All of Berdymukhamedov’s seven opponents praised his leadership in their campaigns, making the authoritarian leader’s victory in yesterday’s election a mere formality. Berdymukhamedov improved on his 2007 performance, in which he secured his first term in this Central Asian nation with 89 per cent of the vote.
Central Election Commission chief Orazmyrat Niyazliyev called the vote democratic and said it contributed to national unity.
But Annette Bohr, an expert on Turkmenistan at the London-based Chatham House institute, said the election presented only the facade of a democratic process.
Much has been said over the past 12 months about the need for reform and democratisation by Arab Gulf governments. While it is evident that Gulf governments have an aversion to genuine democratic reform, it is far too simplistic to put the blame for political stagnation squarely on them. For behind these governments is a network of interests so powerful and intricately woven that it acts as a resistance lever even in the rare instances where serious political reform is suggested.
For instance, the centuries-old tribal nature of the Gulf societies ensures that authority is by tradition delegated to a tribal chief. Even during elections it is not uncommon to see tribes voting exclusively for their own family members. In the United Arab Emirates, several reform activists were openly condemned, while one government-owned newspaper quoted a citizen as saying: “We live here in the UAE as tribes and our leader is a sheikh. Having free elections and more elected Emiratis won’t make a difference in our daily lives.”
The religious authorities in the Gulf states are perhaps among the biggest obstacles to reform. Most clerics in the Gulf rely heavily on government support and reciprocate it with fatwas that serve the governments in return. At the height of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations Saudi’s grand mufti condemned the peaceful protests in Egypt, saying: “This chaos comes from enemies of Islam and those who follow them.”
When in the following month the prospects for demonstrations appeared to be shifting to Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s council of senior clerics issued a fatwa forbidding protests. Often these clerics find themselves in a conundrum and have to carefully package their criticism so as not to offend their generous patrons. In one recent incident, the Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is hosted by the wealthy emirate of Qatar, stated, in reference to Syria, that the time for ruling dynasties in Arab republics was over.
After a bruising meeting in a five-star Cairo hotel, Arab foreign ministers led by Gulf states hinted to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that unless he halts his violent crackdown, some Arab League members might arm his opponents.
The message was folded into Article 9 of a League resolution passed on Sunday that urges Arabs to “provide all kinds of political and material support” to the opposition, a phrase that includes the possibility of giving weapons to Assad’s foes.
Diplomats at the meeting confirmed this interpretation.
Electric cars have been heralded as environmentally friendly, but findings from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, researchers show that electric cars in China have an overall impact on pollution that could be more harmful to health than gasoline vehicles.
Chris Cherry, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, and graduate student Shuguang Ji, analyzed the emissions and environmental health impacts of five vehicle technologies in 34 major Chinese cities, focusing on dangerous fine particles. What Cherry and his team found defies conventional logic: electric cars cause much more overall harmful particulate matter pollution than gasoline cars.
“An implicit assumption has been that air quality and health impacts are lower for electric vehicles than for conventional vehicles,” Cherry said. “Our findings challenge that by comparing what is emitted by vehicle use to what people are actually exposed to. Prior studies have only examined environmental impacts by comparing emission factors or greenhouse gas emissions.”
Particulate matter includes acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. It is also generated through the combustion of fossil fuels.
For electric vehicles, combustion emissions occur where electricity is generated rather than where the vehicle is used. In China, 85 percent of electricity production is from fossil fuels, about 90 percent of that is from coal. The authors discovered that the power generated in China to operate electric vehicles emit fine particles at a much higher rate than gasoline vehicles. However, because the emissions related to the electric vehicles often come from power plants located away from population centers, people breathe in the emissions a lower rate than they do emissions from conventional vehicles.
Still, the rate isn’t low enough to level the playing field between the vehicles. In terms of air pollution impacts, electric cars are more harmful to public health per kilometer traveled in China than conventional vehicles.
However, I did learn something useful, sitting in the airport, waiting with a bunch of other foreigners for permission to enter the country.
I learned that the government of Bahrain is starting to pay a real price for its efforts to shield its actions toward peaceful protesters from international scrutiny.
In its efforts to keep people like me out – people who want to observe how the Bahrain government is responding to peaceful protests – the Bahrain government has adopted a policy of suspicion toward a much broader group of Westerners. And that’s going to hurt the Bahrain government’s image among a much broader group of people than just people like me. It will hurt the willingness of tourists and business people to come to Bahrain.
The monarchy in Bahrain, like the military government in Egypt, seems to have a love-hate relationship with America. They love America’s weapons. But they don’t want Americans to see how they treat protesters who are struggling for democracy, and they don’t want Americans to say anything about it.
A senior Chinese diplomat arrived in Tehran on Sunday to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, amid differences between China and the West over how to resolve the dispute it has caused.
The semi-official ISNA news agency said China’s assistant foreign minister, Ma Zhaoxu, met a member of the Supreme Council of National security, Ali Baqeri, for talks on Iran’s stalled nuclear talks with six world powers, as well as bilateral ties.
The agency quoted Ma as saying China was interested in accelerating talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, comprising the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain.
Iran says its nuclear program is to meet its energy and medical needs. Western nations suspect it has military aims.
China has repeatedly said that the only way to resolve the issue is through dialogue and cooperation.
The man who is expected to become China’s next president will arrive in Washington on Monday for a visit crucial to his political ascension and also to U.S. hopes for easing the mounting tensions between two of the world’s most powerful nations.
Xi Jinping is regarded as more self-confident and gregarious than President Hu Jintao, the famously stiff leader he is on track to succeed next year in a highly choreographed transition that includes, as a major step, this week’s visit.
He is, for example, quick to mention his fondness for the American Midwest, having toured Iowa’s small towns in 1985 as a lowly provincial official, visiting farms and staying overnight in the cramped bedroom of a middle-class family, surrounded by their boys’ “Star Trek” figures.
In exclusive comments to the Washington Post, Xi said of that trip: “I was deeply impressed by America’s advanced technology and the hospitable and industrious American people. That visit drove home to me the importance of closer exchanges between our peoples and gave me a better understanding of China-U.S. relations.”
But it remains unclear whether Xi’s familiarity with U.S. culture will help lead to warmer relations between the countries after years of intensifying economic and military rivalry. So far, he appears no less likely than previous Chinese leaders to resist demands for expanded human rights at home or to rail against Westerners for meddling in Chinese affairs.
This week’s visit, however, could indicate whether Xi’s ascension might result at least in a more candid and productive rapport, current and former U.S. officials say.
Some two years after the assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Mossad agents are still using foreign passports, including those of British nationals, while conducting covert intelligence operations overseas, The Times reported over the weekend.
Following Mabhouh’s death, Dubai police authorities revealed that the assassins used British, French, German and Australian passports.
According to the British newspaper, there have been several occasions when foreigners who immigrated to Israel have been asked to “lend” their passports to the Israeli intelligence agency.
The daily said new evidence indicates that foreign nationals in Israel continue to allow Mossad to use their passports — “on many occasions willingly.”
Though it never admitted that Mossad agents were behind the Hamas terrorist’s death, Israel assured London its intelligence agency would stop using British passports.
Stashing gold at home rather than having cash in the bank is a generations-old habit in communist Vietnam, but a recent surge in prices has sparkedgovernment attempts to bring the yellow metal to heel.
Last year the country bought more gold per capita than India or China, according to the World Gold Council, and domestic prices soared by 18 percent — far outstripping the global market’s 11 percent increase.
And old habits are dying hard, according to 60-year-old retireeTruong Van Hue, even if an ounce of gold bullion can now cost up to $100 more in Hanoi than anywhere else in the world.
“I still like to keep my savings in gold. It’s safe for retired people like me. I can sell the gold any time, anywhere, when I need cash,” he told AFP.
Although the treasure has long been perceived as a safe haven, the recent gold rush has alarmed Vietnam’s government, which is faced with an 18 percent inflation rate and an unstable national currency, the dong.
Officials are trying to dampen the gold fever by bringing the trade back into their hands, almost two decades after they formally legalised the already-common practice of private gold ownership and trading.
An alchemy of financial measures initiated last summer include a decree that placed the gold bullion business of Saigon Jewelry Company, a dominant processor and trader, under the control of the central bank.
Limiting widespread street-level trading of gold will, the official line goes, reduce price volatility and prevent retail investors from pouring into the precious metal, which undermines the already-shaky dong.
An eyewitness to a fatal police shooting in Culpeper, Virginia is contradicting the State Police version of the story. Kris Buchele says he saw a Culpeper Town Police officer shoot 54-year-old Patricia Cook to death in the Epiphany Catholic School parking lot at around 10 a.m. Thursday, February 9.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday blamed Iran for attacks on Israeli embassy staff in Georgia and India that wounded at least two people, one of them an Israeli woman.
“Iran is behind these attacks. It is the biggest exporter of terror in the world,” Netanyahu told members of his rightwing Likud party.
The Israeli leader said there had been a number of attempts to harm Israelis and Jews in recent months, in places such as Thailand and Azerbaijan, in a series of attacks coordinated by Tehran and Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah.
Recent research funded by the pharmaceutical industry and the accompanying flood of new drugs for a range of ills threaten to “medicalize” every human condition and behavior. Now, childhood shyness and internet browsing could be reclassified as mental disorders under controversial new guidelines, warn experts.
There is also a fear that depression after bereavement and behaviour now seen as eccentric or unconventional will also become ‘medicalized’. Internet browsing might also become forms of illness.
The threat comes in the form of proposed changes to a U.S. manual of mental disorders, viewed as a bible by some in the field.
Although the changes to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders would not directly affect every country, experts say it would eventually influence thinking.
Millions of people could be given a psychiatric diagnosis which could ruin their lives, warn psychiatrists and psychologists.
The DSM5 changes are also opposed by many experts in the U.S., some of whom claim they reflect efforts by drug companies to sell more products.
Some call it “disease mongering.” In one article, Ray Moynihan, a journalist with Australian Financial Review, and co-authors describe what they see as “informal alliances” among drug companies and some doctors and consumer groups. They argue that drug companies provide medical experts and patient groups offer “victims” to attest to a given condition’s severity and draw attention to a new “breakthrough” treatment.
The authors also point to several examples–such as hair loss and excessive shyness–of what can be regarded as normal human conditions that have been made medical conditions because there is a pill available for them.
Walnuts help protect against prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and CHD, but the FDA does not want you to know
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, natural, whole foods are packed with synergistic nutrients that work together in unity to provide a plethora of health benefits without causing negative side effects — and walnuts are no exception! A new study published in theBritish Journal of Nutritionhas found that walnuts lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, prevent bone loss, and even fight cancer.
For their study, researchers from both the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., fed mice with prostate tumors the human equivalent of three ounces of walnuts a day. At the conclusion of the study, the mice’s tumors shrunk by 50 percent, and tumor growth slowed by 30 percent compared to control mice.
“These results make me very hopeful that walnuts may be beneficial both in terms of avoiding cancer and slowing cancer growth and therefore should be included in a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables,” said Dr. Paul Davis, lead researcher of the study. “If additional research determines that walnuts have the same effect in men as they do in mice, adhering to a diet that excludes walnuts to lower fat would mean that prostate cancer patients could miss out on the beneficial effects of walnuts.”