Tuesday, January 31, 2012

US airstrike in Yemen kills USS Cole bombing suspect

Feel-good story of the day.
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — U.S. airstrikes targeting leaders from Yemen’s active al-Qaida branch killed four suspected militants, including a man suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the destroyer Cole, officials said Tuesday.

Missiles struck a school and a car late Monday in the southern Abyan province, Yemeni security and military officials said. Large swaths of the province have fallen under the influence of al-Qaida as the militants exploit a security vacuum stemming from an uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh that began last year. [...]

Tribal officials in the area said the latest strike hit the militants as they were holding an important meeting at the school. Air strikes also hit targets in the surrounding mountains and a car carrying people to the meeting between the towns of Lauder and Moudia. Another car on its way to the meeting got away, the officials said.

Yemeni security officials originally put the death toll at 15 people but later lowered that figure to four. They also said 12 militants were wounded in the strikes.


US Navy's incredible, sci-fi railgun takes step toward reality

(Fox News) A theoretical dream for decades, the futuristic railgun -- which uses magnets to shoot bullets for hundreds of miles at speeds of up to Mach 7 -- just took another step toward reality.

Military supply company Raytheon announced Monday that it had been awarded a $10 million naval contract to develop a way to supply enough juice to power the whopping gun -- which could someday reshape naval warfare.

"This new system will dramatically change how our Navy defends itself and engages enemies while at sea," said Joe Biondi, vice president of advanced technology for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business.

Rather than relying on a explosion to fire a projectile, the railgun uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

But it takes a heck of a lot of electricity to achieve such a velocity.

To supply it, Raytheon’s building a “Pulse Forming Network” or PFN. That's a large power system that stores up electrical power and then converts it to a pulse that is directed into the gun's barrel, John Cochran, the railgun program manager in Raytheon's Advanced Technology Group, told CNET’s News.com.

Navy scientists with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have been hard at work on the railgun itself for years, even as the agency admits it could take a decade or more to become practical. The ONR hit a new milestone last fall, successfully firing the railgun for the 1,000th time on Mon., Oct. 31, in Dahlgren, Va., -- edging the state-of-the-art weapon toward real-world deployment.

The next step: turning the test versions of the railgun into an actual gun. Current firings have been limited to Naval test facilities on dry land.

The future of the railgun looked in doubt last summer. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted in April of 2011 to eliminate funding for two of the Navy’s most futuristic (and by the same token least concrete) weapons: the free electron laser, essentially a super-powered death ray, and the railgun.

That changed on Dec. 31, 2011, when President Obama finally signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or H.R. 1540. A section in that bill demands an update on the feasibility of the electromagnetic railgun, but doesn't kill the weapon outright.

Instead it delays the end, requiring the Secretary of Defense to submit a report this summer on the feasibility of developing and deploying the electromagnetic rail gun system to be used for either land- or ship-based force protection.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Video: Petulant, Thin-Skinned Manchild of a President Routinely Throws Tantrums on the Tarmac

Report: UN Textbooks for Palestinian Children ‘Explosively Anti-Semitic, Anti-American and Anti-Israeli'

Shocker. Well, not really.
(CNSNews.com) – The textbooks used to educate Palestinian children who live in refugee camps came under fire at a briefing on Wednesday on Capitol Hill where experts said lessons of intolerance and hatred toward Jews and Israel fill the books’ pages.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House subcommittee on Human Rights and co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism, told CNSNews.com that U.S. donations to the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) make the federal government accountable for what is in the books.

“We are responsible for the content and the content has been, year in and year out, explosively anti-Semitic, anti-American and anti-Israeli,” Smith said, at the event he hosted with the Center for Near-East Policy Research, which is based in Jerusalem and which has studied the topic extensively .

Since the UNRWA began operations in 1950 in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the United States has been the largest contributor to the agency. The UNRWA oversees the health, education, and social services of some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees, including those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “Since UNRWA’s inception in 1950, the United States has provided the agency with nearly $4 billion in contributions.”

The CRS reports that U.S. contributions to the UNRWA have steadily increased over the past decade, with nearly $228 million given in [fiscal year] 2010.

Arnon Groiss, author of a comprehensive study on Middle Eastern textbooks who has advised the U.S. State Department and testified before the U.S. Congress, brought some of the textbooks to the congressional Rayburn Building on Thursday to share specifics of what the experts consider objectionable.

Groiss' report on the textbooks, "Teaching the 'Right of Return' in UNRWA Schools," was distributed at the event. The report had been commissioned by the Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, an interfaith association of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders.

The study shows, for example, that on the cover and on page 7 of the National Education textbook for Grade 2, the image of a Palestinian stamp has a blank square where the Hebrew script that is on the stamp has been removed. (See picture on left.)

In the same book (p.16), a map is entitled “Arab and Muslim Nations.”

“Israel does not exist,” on the map,” Groiss told CNSNews.com. (Picture on right.)

In a Reading and Texts book (2011) for Grade 9, p.24, the instructions tell the student to “reconcile between the following poetical lines and the feelings they express”:

“The morning of glory and red liberty watered by the martyrs’ blood … the hope for the Liberation of Palestine.”

In the textbook National Education, Grade 7 (2011), pp. 20-21, it says, "The Zionist colonialist greedy ambitions in Palestine started in 1882. ... The coming of the Jewish throngs to Palestine continued until 1948 and their goal was taking over the Palestinian lands and then taking the original inhabitants' place after their expulsin and extermination. ..."

In the book, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1, 2001, p.81, there is a poem entitled The Martyr that, in part, reads: "Hearing [weapons'] clash is pleasant to my ear and the flow of blood gladdens my soul/ As we as a body thrown upon the ground skirmished over by the desert predators/ ... By your life! This is the death of men and whoever asks for a noble death -- here it is!"


Report: IDF covert operations rise significantly over past year

As regional threats grow, Israel increases operations overseas in Iran, Lebanon, and Sudan, according to foreign reports; military capabilities abroad to improve with creation of new unit to operate in enemy territory.
(JPost) The IDF has significantly increased the number of overseas covert operations it has conducted over the past year, an indication of the growing threats Israel faces in the region, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Most of the details about the operations are classified, including the exact number, but according to foreign reports, the IDF has operated in places such as Sudan, Lebanon and Iran.

The one confirmed covert operation in the past year was in March 2011, when commandos from the navy’s elite Flotilla 13 – or Shayetet 13 – boarded the Victoria cargo ship sailing in the Mediterranean from Turkey en route to Egypt.

The ship was carrying 50 tons of weaponry, including a number of advanced radar-guided anti-ship missiles destined for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In December, foreign reports claimed the Israel Air Force bombed two arms convoys on their way to the Gaza Strip in Sudan. One of the reports claimed an Israeli helicopter was spotted over an island near Sudan and that a submarine was also detected in the area.

Last April a car was bombed near Port Sudan. Arab media reports accused Israel of the strike against the car whose occupants were reportedly Islamist terrorists involved in arms-smuggling to Hamas.

The IDF has a number of units that specialize in covert operations – the Air Force is in command of Shaldag, Military Intelligence in command of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) and the navy in command of Shayetet 13.

While the number of operations conducted by Israel’s special forces has increased over the past year, there has been a feeling within the General Staff since the Second Lebanon War that the units could do more if they worked closer together and if there was better coordination between their respective branches.

In an effort to improve their capabilities, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz decided in December to establish the “Depth Corps” – a new unit that will oversee operations deep in enemy territory.

The corps will be headed by Maj.-Gen. Shai Avital, a former commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, who has been out of the IDF for over a decade. Gantz selected Avital due to his expertise in deep-covert operations.

The purpose of the corps will be to enable each unit – Sayeret Matkal, Shaldag and Shayetet – to retain their unique capabilities and at the same time create better coordination between themselves.

Somali terrorists ban Red Cross in Somalia

(Somalia) The ever caring Islamic terrorist group Al Shabaab has, like nearly everything else (TV, radio, women wearing bras, football, English lessons, foreign aid workers, and the rest), banned the International Red Cross, citing that the ICRC had been handing out of date food, which is why they set fire today to "nearly 2,000 metric tons of ICRC rations intended for distribution." Rations, they claimed, were past their sell by date.

I have to admit, it's really nice of Al Shabaab to ensure that people, living well under the breadline, have such nice understanding people looking after them.

9-year-old Muslim girls forced to get wed in the UK

(London) A leading Islamic human rights group (the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) has revealed how 30 forced marriages took place in the London borough of Islington  in 2010, involving at least three 11-year-old and two 9-year-old girls.

This coincides with how the Ministry of Justice revealed details of over 30 applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders in 2011, of which “five or fewer” were made to protect children aged 9 to 11.

Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, said:
“They are still attending schools in Islington, struggling to do their primary school homework, and at the same time being practically raped by a middle-aged man regularly and being abused by their families. So they are a wife, but in a primary school uniform.

The reason it doesn't get out is because they are too terrified to speak out, and also the control their families have over them is impossible to imagine if you're not going through it. The way it is covered up is so precise, almost unspeakable.”

The girls are married off to family friends or family members to stop them from losing their virginity to anyone not chosen by their father.
That, people, is but one borough in London, there are 32 in total, which theoretically means there are over 900 forced marriages a year in London alone.

I wonder why nobody from the so called social services is making a huge song and dance about this child abuse?

Afghan woman murdered for giving birth to a... girl

(Khanabad) 22-year-old Estorai offended her mother-in-law and her husband the other day when she gave birth to her 2nd child. You see, her second child was a girl, just like her first. Which is why she was tied up by her mother-in-law and then strangled to death by her loving husband.

Of course, her husband (Sher Mohammad), who felt obliged to kill the mother of his children in which to regain his honour, did a runner after the act, which is why the police arrested the mother-in-law. She in turn claimed that her daughter-in-law hung herself.

Problem for the mother-in-law (you know, the one whose murdering son Mohammed left her to take the rap for his murderous act of honour) was no rope was found around Estorai neck, or for that matter a rope.

Pro-Palestinian hackers apologize for bringing down Haaretz, a "good newspaper", get laughed at

@haaretzprint we are sorry , we didn't know that haaretz is a good newspaper,we sorry about this , and be sure no one will attack u again .Wed Jan 25 23:33:59 via web

.@anonps takes down the website of the one israeli newspaper actually sympathetic to palestinians http://t.co/lJDJxeCTWed Jan 25 17:10:55 via Twitter for Mac

maybe next @anonps will take down the websites of israel-based palestinian solidarity organizations. that'll teach those damn zionists!Wed Jan 25 17:14:25 via Twitter for Mac

.@AnonPS attacking of Haaretz (a left-wing paper in Israel) proves that they're just as stupid as they are evil when they attack hospitals!Wed Jan 25 19:22:04 via Twitter for Mac

Obviously not a lot of intelligent people over at @AnonPS. Reminds me of stupid Palestinian terrorists who blow themselves up making bombs!Wed Jan 25 19:26:21 via Twitter for Mac

So @AnonPS apologized to @haaretzonline for their DDoS attack reinforcing the belief in some Israelis that @haaretzonline is the enemy :(Fri Jan 27 10:16:49 via Tweetbot for iPhone

Panetta says Iran is one year away from a nuclear weapon, sets a sly deadline after next year's inauguration

From WJD:
In a major shift in tone for the Obama administration, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes" that Iran will be capable of producing a nuclear weapon within a year, and that the administration will act to stop by any necessary means.

"The consensus," Panetta said,
is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.

The United States, and the president's made this clear, does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us. And it's a red line obviously for the Israelis so we share a common goal here.

If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.
Queried about what steps these might be, Panetta replied, "There are no options off the table."

Panetta's rhetoric is noticeably tougher than previous administration statements on the subject, which have tended to stress sanctions and other non-military options against Iran.

In this case, however, the term "red line" and the deadline of one year essentially put the Obama administration on a countdown toward action of some kind. Given that the Iranian regime is unlikely to stop its nuclear program in any event, it essentially amounts to a pledge to use force against Iran within one year.

It is difficult to know, however, just how sincere this pledge might be. Given Obama's need to shore up support from foreign policy hawks, as well as a Jewish vote that many believe will be in play this election year, such bellicose statements on Iran are very much in the administration's interest.

Whether Obama will actually live up to them is another question. It is perhaps telling that the one-year deadline will fall at the end of next January, essentially a week after the new administration will be sworn into office.

Panetta's ultimatum, in other words, may suffice for an election year but, should Obama win reelection, be conveniently forgotten.

Pic of the day: Syrian anti-regime protesters accuse Assad of being an "Israel protector"

A child holds banner reading, "Israel protector, we coming to get you" during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib January 30, 2012. (Reuters Pictures)

Russia seeks to slow UN action on Syria; body count mounts

Demonstrators hold a sign as they gather during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Russia in Kafranbel, near Idlib January 29, 2012. The sign reads "Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, display tanks, planes, bombs, vetos for sale". (Reuters Pictures)
Street battles continue around Damascus as troops regain neighborhoods captured by rebels; Russian deputy FM: Moscow wants more time to study Arab League plan, says draft resolution is unacceptable in its current form.
(Reuters) Russia sought to avert a swift UN Security Council vote on a Western-Arab resolution on Syria as street battles continued to rage on the doorstep of Damascus Monday.

On the ground, Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops sought to consolidate their grip on suburbs rebel fighters had taken only a few miles from the center of the regime's power.

Activists and residents said Syrian troops now had control of Hamouriyeh, one of a cluster of districts where they have used armored vehicles and artillery to beat back rebels who came as close as eight km (five miles) to Damascus.

An activist said the Free Syrian Army - a force of military defectors with links to Syria's divided political opposition - mounted scattered attacks on government troops who advanced through the district of Saqba, held by rebels just days ago.

"Street fighting has been raging since dawn," he said, adding tanks were moving through a central avenue of the neighborhood. "The sound of gunfire is everywhere."

The rebels said at least 15 people had been killed as they pulled back in Saqba and Kfar Batna. Activists have claimed a death toll of several dozen in three days of fighting in the districts, which have seen repeated protests against Assad's rule and crackdowns by troops on the 10-month-old uprising.


Iran: 4 Senior Revolutionary Guards Officers "Mysteriously" Drop Dead of Heart Attack and Stroke

Filed under "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm..."
(INN) In the last few days, four senior former Revolutionary Guards officers have mysteriously died of sudden heart attacks and stroke, as reported by Iranian media.
Opposition website hints men may have been murdered amid rising tensions within regime in Tehran.
(Ynet) Four Revolutionary Guard commanders died mysteriously of heart attacks and strokes over the past four days, an Iranian opposition website reported.

The website hinted that the commanders may have been murdered, this following the recent assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran and amid power struggles within the Iranian regime.

According to Saham News, which is affiliated with opposition leader Mehdi Karoubi, the commanders were identified as Wafe Afrian (52), Abbas Mahari (52), Ahmed Siafzadeh (55) and Mansour Turkan (53).

According to reports in Iran, Afrian died five days ago after battling a disease for the past few months. He served as a senior commander in the electronics warfare division.

Mahari, who died of a stroke, was a senior faculty member Imam Hossein University in Tehran and was linked to Iran's unconventional weapons program.

Siafzadeh, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards university, died of a heart attack, and Turkan, who served as a senior commander during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly died of a stroke.

On Saturday media outlets in Azerbaijan quoted Iranian sources as saying that a 43-year-old Iranian military officer was shot to death by two motorcyclists in the city of Khorramabad.

Another soldier was injured in the incident. The two assailants fled the scene, according to reports.

The Mehr news agency said the killed mid-level officer was identified as Raze Ali Fimani.

Saturday's incident occurred just 10 days after Professor Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian nuclear scientist, was killed when motorcyclists attacked a bomb to his car in northern Tehran.

In October 2010, 18 Revolutionary Guard members were killed and a number of others were injured during an explosion at a military base near Khorramabad, located some 480 kilometers (about 300 miles) southwest of Tehran.

Iran said the blast was the result of a fire in a munitions warehouse, but a few weeks later French daily Le Figaro speculated that Mossad was responsible for the explosion, which it claimed was part of a series of covert operations Israel launched to hinder Iran's nuclear program.

Tensions within the regime in Tehran have risen recently after former Revolutionary Guards commander Hussein Alaei published a letter that implicitly criticized the actions of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei around the controversial 2009 presidential elections.

Alai later announced that his article had been misinterpreted, but dozens of Khamenei supporters protested outside his home.

Former senior Guards members claimed the letter "played into the hands of Iran's enemies."

UK: Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years

Which should effectively mean the end of the global warming hysteria by. Al Gore never saw it coming.
(Daily Mail) The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

Solar output goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak.

We are now at what should be the peak of what scientists call ‘Cycle 24’ – which is why last week’s solar storm resulted in sightings of the aurora borealis further south than usual. But sunspot numbers are running at less than half those seen during cycle peaks in the 20th Century.

Analysis by experts at NASA and the University of Arizona – derived from magnetic-field measurements 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface – suggest that Cycle 25, whose peak is due in 2022, will be a great deal weaker still.

According to a paper issued last week by the Met Office, there is a 92 per cent chance that both Cycle 25 and those taking place in the following decades will be as weak as, or weaker than, the ‘Dalton minimum’ of 1790 to 1830. In this period, named after the meteorologist John Dalton, average temperatures in parts of Europe fell by 2C.

However, it is also possible that the new solar energy slump could be as deep as the ‘Maunder minimum’ (after astronomer Edward Maunder), between 1645 and 1715 in the coldest part of the ‘Little Ice Age’ when, as well as the Thames frost fairs, the canals of Holland froze solid.


Latest US drone takes to the skies

(US) Even with the news that a jet powered UAV has fallen into the hands of the Iranians (I wonder what Russia and China are offering Iran for a look at the tech it holds?) the UAV program continues at breathtaking speed in the US. While everybody else's latest models all sport propellers, the US moving up a notch have moved into the jet age. The Army and Airforce have been main movers into the UAV age, however, the Navy (for obvious reasons) have held back, but that doesn't mean the boys in blue have sat on their backsides and done nothing.

What the Navy asked for is a self autonomous vehicle that could be sent away to attack a target without recourse to a backseat driver sat thousands of miles away in the US, and what they have picked as their weapon of choice is the Northrop Grumman X-45B. With a range of over 2000 miles, stealth capable and able to refuel in midair, the US Navy appears to have a formidable strike asset on their hands.

Well, the second kite was delivered the other month, which will enable the Navy to carry out flight testing for the next 12 months, with an aim of an actual hands off carrier landing sometime next year. Here are a few of photos of the X-45B.

And here is a short video:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Report: Assad's family unsuccessfully attempts to escape Syria

Sources tell Egyptian daily that Syrian security forces tried to help smuggle Syrian president's family out of country.
(JPost) Syrian security forces attempted to smuggle Syrian President Bashar Assad's family out of the country, sources from the Syrian opposition told Al-Masry-Al-Youm Sunday evening, according to a report published by the Egyptian daily.

According to the report, security forces tried to aid the president's wife Asma Assad, to escape via Damascus, along with his children, mother and cousin.

The sources told Al-Masry-Al-Youm that "a convoy of official vehicles was seen heading to the airport in Damascus," before they were intercepted by brigades of army defectors.

According to the source, there was a heavy exchange of fire between the security forces and the Free Syrian Army forces; the family were prevented from escaping and returned to the presidential palace.


Jihadist Spring: Islamist Egyptian MP calls for al-Qaeda's Zawahiri to return to Egypt "with his head held high and safely"

Well, now that Sadat's killers are running the country...
(LWJ) A member of the newly elected Egyptian parliament has called for al Qaeda's emir to return to the country "with his head held high and safely."

Aboud al Zomor, who served as the first emir of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and was later imprisoned for his role in President Anwar Sadat's assassination, said that he welcomes Ayman al Zawahiri's return to Egypt and that he would be given safe haven, according to a report published yesterday in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. The report was translated from Arabic by the Foundation For Defense of Democracies.

"When asked if he saw any danger in al Zawahiri's return, al Zomor said that 'he was not a threat to Egypt, the likes of al Zawahiri differed with the previous regime and they were only a danger for this regime and not for Egypt, and now he is liberating Afghanistan and Iraq...'" the report stated. Zomor also lamented that the US would be opposed to Zawahiri's return to Egypt.


Funny anti-Obama pic from the Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Florida

Phyllis Drossman wears her anti-US President Barrack Obama button at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally where Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich spoke January 27, 2012 in Delray Beach, Florida. 'Oy vey' is the Yiddish expression for exasperation or dismay. (Getty Images)

Netherlands plans to ban Muslim face-covering veils next year

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) — The Dutch minority government plans to ban Muslim face veils such as burkas and other forms of clothing that cover the face from next year.

The ban would make the Netherlands, where 1 million out of 17 million people are Muslim, the second European Union country to ban the burka after France, and would apply to face-covering veils if they were worn in public.

“People should be able to look at each other’s faces and recognize each other when they meet,” the interior affairs ministry said in a statement Friday.

The ban will also apply to balaclavas and motorcycle helmets when worn in inappropriate places, such as inside a store, Deputy Prime Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters, denying that this was a ban on religious clothing.

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), which helps give the Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition a majority in parliament, has set considerable political store on getting the so-called burka ban passed into law.


Syrian tanks, troops storm areas near capital of Damascus, at least 62 people were killed nationwide

Smoke rises from the suburb of Erbeen in Damascus, January 29, 2012. Around 2,000 Syrian troops backed by tanks launched an assault to retake Damascus suburbs from rebels on Sunday, activists said, a day after the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission in Syria because of worsening violence. (Reuters Pictures)
BEIRUT (AP) — In dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, Syrian troops stormed rebellious areas near the capital Sunday, shelling neighborhoods that have fallen under the control of army dissidents and clashing with fighters. At least 62 people were killed in violence nationwide, activists and residents said.

The widescale offensive near the capital suggested the regime is worried that military defectors could close in on Damascus, which has remained relatively quiet while most other Syrian cities descended into chaos after the uprising began in March.

The rising bloodshed added urgency to Arab and Western diplomatic efforts to end the 10-month conflict.

The violence has gradually approached the capital. In the past two weeks, army dissidents have become more visible, seizing several suburbs on the eastern edge of Damascus and setting up checkpoints where masked men wearing military attire and wielding assault rifles stop motorists and protect anti-regime protests.

Their presence so close to the capital is astonishing in tightly controlled Syria and suggests the Assad regime may either be losing control or setting up a trap for the fighters before going on the offensive.

Residents of Damascus reported hearing clashes in the nearby suburbs, particularly at night, shattering the city's calm.

"The current battles taking place in and around Damascus may not yet lead to the unraveling of the regime, but the illusion of normalcy that the Assads have sought hard to maintain in the capital since the beginning of the revolution has surely unraveled," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a U.S.-based Syrian dissident.

"Once illusions unravel, reality soon follows," he wrote in his blog Sunday.

Soldiers riding some 50 tanks and dozens of armored vehicles stormed a belt of suburbs and villages on the eastern outskirts of Damascus known as al-Ghouta Sunday, a predominantly Sunni Muslim agricultural area where large anti-regime protests have been held.


US Navy sending commando ‘mothership’ used by SEALs to the Middle East

(WaPo) The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.

In response to requests from U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.

Navy documents indicate that it could be headed to the Persian Gulf, where Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping route for much of the world’s oil supply. A market survey proposal from the Military Sealift Command, dated Dec. 22 and posted online, states that the floating base needed to be delivered to the Persian Gulf.

Other contract documents do not specify a location but say the mothership would be used to “support mine countermeasure” missions. Defense officials have said that if Iran did attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, it would rely on mines to obstruct the waterway.


Iran: Web developer sentenced to death "for spreading corruption"

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state media say the Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence against a web developer convicted of spreading corruption.

The semiofficial Fars news agency says blogger Saeed Malekpour was found guilty of promoting pornographic sites. It says the Supreme Court approved the death sentence handed down by a Revolutionary Court that deals with security crimes.

Malekpour was reported imprisoned in October, 2008 and confessed on Iranian TV that he developed and promoted pornographic websites.

The website gerdab.ir, affiliated with the elite Revolutionary Guard, called Malekpour the head of the biggest Persian-language network of pornographic websites.

Egypt: Clashes erupt in Cairo during anti-army protest

A demonstrator shouts as they are attacked by people with stones and glass during a protest demanding the army to hand power to civilians in front of the state television building in Cairo, January 29, 2012. (Reuters Pictures)
CAIRO (Reuters) - Hundreds of Egyptian protesters demanding an immediate end to military rule clashed on Sunday with rivals in civilian clothes outside central Cairo's state media building, the same place where 25 people were killed in a demonstration in October.

"Down with military rule," protesters chanted. The sound of gunshots rang through the air but it was unclear who was firing.

"Tell me council, who chose you? It's Mubarak's gang that appointed you," the crowd chanted, referring to the army council which has ruled Egypt since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11.

Dozens of protesters clashed with a group of people protesters described as "thugs" brought out to attack them, hurling stones at each other. There was no sign of police or troops intervening or securing the media building.

"We were protesting here peacefully, and all of a sudden a group of around 50 thugs came from side streets surrounding the building and attacked us with stones and glass bottles, and we responded by throwing stones back at them. They tore down our tents," said Mohamed Abdo, 45, an elevator worker.

State radio said residents in a poor area next to Maspero, the site of the demonstration, had challenged the protesters because they were disrupting shops and businesses in the area.

Protesters often say such "thugs," usually youths in plain clothes and sometimes members of the police force, have been hired by the authorities to disrupt demonstrations.


Boko Haram, Allah's finest in Nigeria, attack, bomb police station in Kano

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen bombed a police station on Sunday outside Nigeria's second city Kano, the police and witnesses said, leading to an hour of gunbattles in a region plagued by attacks from Islamist sect Boko Haram.

Kano state and its capital city of 10 million people have been under siege by gunmen from Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law across Nigeria.

"We were able to push them out of the area but they burnt part of the police station," Kano police commissioner Ibrahim Idris said. "It was a blast that caused damage to the station."

Boko Haram's attacks have become more sophisticated and deadly in Africa's top oil producer. A series of gun and bomb attacks, mostly on police stations, killed 186 people in Kano on January 20.

Witnesses said gunmen and armed police were in a shoot out for around an hour after the explosion at the police station at Naibawa district outside Kano.

"We are scared. The police and Boko Haram members are battling each other and there is gunfire everywhere," Usman Ibrahim Bello, a local resident told Reuters.

In an audio tape posted on the Internet on Thursday, the purported leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to kill more security personnel and kidnap their families, and accused U.S. President Barack Obama of waging war on Islam.

Boko Haram, a movement loosely modelled on the Afghan Taliban whose name translates as "Western education is sinful," has been behind almost daily killings in its home base in the largely Muslim northeast. Its violence has spread west into other parts of the north and the capital Abuja since last year.

Canada: Afghan immigrant family sentenced in 'honor killings' of 4 "Westernized" female family members

Kingston, Ontario (CNN) -- A Canadian jury Sunday convicted three members of a family of Afghan immigrants of the "honor" murders of four female relatives whose bodies were found in an Ontario canal.

Mohammed Shafia, 58; his wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 42; and their son, Hamed, 21, were found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Shafia's three teenage daughters and his first wife in his polygamous marriage. Sunday's verdicts followed a three-month trial, in which jurors heard wiretaps of Shafia referring to his daughters as "whores" and ranting about their behavior.

"This is a good day for Canadian justice. Our democratic society protects the rights of all," Gerard Laarhuis, the chief prosecutor in the case, told reporters outside the courthouse in Kingston. "It's a very bad day, because this jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family."

At least one Shafia family supporter interrupted Laarhuis with shouts of "lies" and called the verdict a "miscarriage of justice." But others cheered the verdict as Laarhuis continued.

The three Shafia sisters -- Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 -- were found dead inside a car that plunged into the Rideau Canal in Kingston on June 30, 2009. Shafia's first wife, 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, also died.

The verdicts came on the second day of deliberations for a seven-woman, five-man jury in Kingston, about 280 km (175 miles) west of the family's home in Montreal.

Prosecutors said the girls' father, mother and brother all plotted to kill the four women in an "honor" murder. Investigators claimed that hours of wiretapped conversations reveal a premeditated plan to punish rebellious, Westernized daughters and their permissive advocate, Rona.

Shafia and Yahya admitted on the stand that they were upset with Zainab for running off to marry a Pakistani man they hated, that Sahar wore revealing clothes and had secret boyfriends, and Geeti was failing in school and calling social workers to get her out of a home in turmoil.

Prosecutors argued that under instructions from his father, Hamed Shafia used the family Lexus to ram the other family car carrying the women into the canal. The shattered headlight on the Lexus, they claim, matches the damage on the rear bumper of the family Nissan in which the women were found dead.

Investigators also believed the victims might have died before they hit the water, because they were unable to escape despite their seat belts being unbuckled and the car being submerged in just 7 feet of water.


Russia backs Assad in defiance of international efforts

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's defiance of international efforts to end Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protests is rooted in a calculation that it can keep a Mideast presence by propping up its last remaining ally in the region — and has nothing to lose if it fails.

The Kremlin has put itself in conflict with the West as it shields Assad's regime from United Nations sanctions and continues to provide it with weapons even as others impose arms embargoes.

But Moscow's relations with Washington are already strained amid controversy over U.S. missile defense plans and other disputes. And Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seems eager to defy the U.S. as he campaigns to reclaim the presidency in March elections.

"It would make no sense for Russia to drop its support for Assad," said Ruslan Pukhov, head of the independent Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. "He is Russia's last remaining ally in the Middle East, allowing it to preserve some influence in the region."

Moscow may also hope that Assad can hang on to power with its help and repay Moscow with more weapons contracts and other lucrative deals.

And observers note that even as it has nothing to lose from backing Assad, it has nothing to gain from switching course and supporting the opposition.

"Russia has crossed the Rubicon," said Igor Korotchenko, head of the Center for Analysis of Global Weapons Trade.

He said Russia will always be marked as the patron of the Assad regime regardless of the conflict's outcome, so there's little incentive to build bridges with the protesters. The U.N. estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed since the uprising began in March.

"Russia will be seen as the dictator's ally. If Assad's regime is driven from power, it will mean an end to Russia's presence," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the magazine Russia in Global Affairs.


300 arrested, flag burned in daylong Occupy Oakland violent communist provocateur protests

An Occupy Oakland protestor burns an American flag found inside Oakland City Hall during an Occupy Oakland protest, Saturday, January 28, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. Police were in the process of arresting about 100 Occupy protesters for failing to disperse Saturday night, hours after officers used tear gas on a rowdy group of demonstrators who threw rocks and flares at them and tore down fences. (AP Photo)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Dozens of police maintained a late-night guard around City Hall following daylong protests that resulted in 300 arrests. Occupy Oakland demonstrators broke into the historic building and burned a U.S. flag, as officers earlier fired tear gas to disperse people throwing rocks and tearing down fencing at a convention center.

Saturday's protests — the most turbulent since Oakland police forcefully dismantled an Occupy encampment in November — came just days after the group said it planned to use a vacant building as a social center and political hub and threatened to try to shut down the port, occupy the airport and take over City Hall.

An exasperated Mayor Jean Quan, who faced heavy criticism for the police action last fall, called on the Occupy movement to "stop using Oakland as its playground."

"People in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop making excuses for this behavior," Quan said.

Protesters clashed with police throughout the day, at times throwing rocks, bottles and other objects at officers. And police responded by deploying smoke, tear gas and bean bag rounds, City Administrator Deanna Santanta said.

Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan said about 300 arrests were made.

"These demonstrators stated their intention was to provoke officers and engage in illegal activity and that's exactly what has occurred today," Santana said.

The group assembled outside City Hall late Saturday morning and marched through the streets, disrupting traffic as they threatened to take over the vacant Henry Kaiser Convention Center.

The protesters walked to the vacant convention center, where some started tearing down perimeter fencing and "destroying construction equipment" shortly before 3 p.m., police said.

Police said they issued a dispersal order and used smoke and tear gas after some protesters pelted them with bottles, rocks, burning flares and other objects.

The number of demonstrators swelled as the day wore on, with afternoon estimates ranging from about 1,000 to 2,000 people.

A majority of the arrests came after police took scores of protesters into custody as they marched through the city's downtown, with some entering a YMCA building, said Sgt. Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.

Quan said that at one point, many protesters forced their way into City Hall, where they burned flags, broke an electrical box and damaged several art structures, including a recycled art exhibit created by children.

She blamed the destruction on a small "very radical, violent" splinter group within Occupy Oakland.


Video: Allen West Tells Obama, Reid, Pelosi to Take Their Marxism and 'Get the Hell Out of the USA'

(Fox Nation) Rep. Allen West addresses the GOP and expresses his views on Obama, Reid and Pelosi.

Rep. Allen West-'This is a battlefield that we must stand upon and we need to let president Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and my dear friend, the chairman of the democrat national committee, we need to let them know that Florida is not on the table. Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, and take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.'

CNN Tries To Bury Obama-Alinsky Ties

(IBD) As the president launches his re-election bid by striking a more centrist tone, the partisan press is helping him whitewash his radical past. Teamwork or not, it'll be hard to bleach.

Exhibit A is CNN's Soledad O'Brien. Earlier this week, she hosted a segment that tried to de-link Obama from Chicago socialist Saul Alinsky. The late Alinsky is the father of community organizing and the author of the far-left bible "Rules for Radicals."

O'Brien opened her piece by scolding GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich for warning Obama "will represent Saul Alinsky (and) European socialism" in a second term. "President Obama has never said that he was influenced by Alinsky," O'Brien insisted.

Of course he hasn't. He's not stupid enough to publicly link himself to a socialist. But the record is clear that he was in fact influenced by Alinsky, if only CNN's "journalists" would do their homework. Allow us to do it for them:

• Obama first learned Alinsky's rules in the 1980s, when Alinskyite radicals with the Chicago-based Alinsky group Gamaliel Foundation recruited, hired, trained and paid him as a community organizer in South Side Chicago. (Gamaliel's website expressly states it grew out of the Alinsky movement.)

• In 1988, Obama even wrote a chapter for the book "After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois," in which he lamented organizers' "lack of power" in implementing change.

• Gamaliel board member John McKnight, a hard-core student of Alinsky, penned a letter for Obama to help him get into Harvard Law School.

• Obama took a break from his Harvard studies to travel to Los Angeles for eight days of intense training at Alinsky's Industrial Areas Foundation, a station of the cross for acolytes.

• In turn, he trained other community organizers in Alinsky agitation tactics.

• Obama also taught Alinsky's "Power Analysis" methods at the University of Chicago.

• During the presidential campaign, Obama hired one of his Gamaliel mentors, Mike Kruglik, to train young campaign workers in Alinsky tactics at "Camp Obama," a school set up at Obama headquarters in Chicago. The tactics helped Obama capture the youth vote like no other president before him.

• Power would no longer be an issue, as Obama infiltrated the highest echelon of the political establishment — the White House — fulfilling Alinsky's vision of a new "vanguard" of coat-and-tie radicals who "work inside the system" to change the system.

• After the election, his other Gamaliel mentor, Jerry Kellman (who hired him and whose identity Obama disguised in his memoir), helped the Obama administration establish Organizing for America, which mobilizes young supporters to agitate for Obama's legislative agenda using "Rules for Radicals."

• Obama's favorite rule is No. 13: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it." You see that in his attacks on "fat cat bankers," "greedy health insurers" and "millionaires and billionaires." He also readily applies Alinsky's fifth rule of "ridiculing" the opposition.

"Obama learned his lesson well," said David Alinsky, son of the late socialist. "I am proud to see that my father's model for organizing is being applied successfully beyond local community organizing."

Bizarrely, O'Brien was more than willing to connect Alinsky with the Tea Party, without citing a shred of real evidence to back up the silly claim. The CNN anchor closed her segment by saying she would pin Gingrich down on his supposedly misleading claims. "We will be sure to ask the former speaker the next time we get a chance to talk to him about that," she said.

Wouldn't it make more sense to just ask Obama? You know, "Mr. President, have you ever read Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'"? Or "Have your ever trained at organizations founded by Alinsky?"

Is she really this clueless? Or is she covering for Obama? Either way, it does not reflect well on a journalist of her stature and influence.

It's plain CNN plans to gloss over the president's radical past in this campaign, just like it did in 2008.

11 Boko Haram gunmen killed in shoot-out with Nigerian army

(Nigeria) In the lawless northern half of Nigeria 'Boko Haram' who, having lost the income of extortion that the previous governor of Kano state used to pay them, have set about terrorising the new governor (and a few others) to fund their religious minded inquisition, which is why in the past month over 1000 people have been murdered to the utterance of 'Allah Ackba'.

The Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has called for open dialogue with the group to end the fighting but in reply Allah's favourite murderers in Nigeria have stipulated that they won't stop killing until they rule all the country and have installed 'Sharia law' on the southern Christian states.

Well, with the declaration of religious war, what else can you do but send in the troops in which to hunt down and eradicate those who justify murder based primarily on the religious affiliation of the person you want to murder?

Well, at a road block in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, armed Boko Haram found themselves being asked to explain why they were armed for jihad, and in the shootout that followed, 11 holy warriors got their wish in which to descend to hell and become gay virgins for their unholy cause.

Pakistani herdsmen shot dead by Iranian troops

(Iran) It appears that all this nuclear brinkmanship is making the Iranians jumpy and trigger happy. Which is why on the Iranian/Pakistani border, herdsmen doing what they have been doing for thousands of years - crossing borders in which to move their stock about - were shot at by Allah's finest murderers. 6 dead and 2 injured herders later and the mullah's in Tehran appear to have offended another Islamic country, yet again.

What makes this even more damning for Tehran is this transpired weeks after Iranian police chased Pakistani nationals into Pakistan and shot one of them dead inside Pakistan.

Pakistan: Man named Allah surrenders to authorities after honor-killing sister with an axe and is ‘confident of acquittal’

MUZAFFARGARH (Pakistan): Allah Bachaya has surrendered himself to Rohilanwali police after killing his sister in the name of honour but he is confident that he will be released in a matter of days.

Bachaya gave his arrest on Saturday after killing Alina* in an axe attack for alleged loose morals.

He told The Express Tribune that he was certain his brother-in-law would withdraw the case as it was a matter of family’s honour. “I have killed her because she brought disgrace to the family’s name,” Bachaya said.

“She had become a nuisance. I feel no remorse over my actions. I am backed by the family. They were in favour of my decision to kill her,” he said.

Bachaya said Alina* had eloped more than once with [different] men from the neighbourhood. On Saturday, he said, she had returned home after spending three days with a man.

Alina*, 25, was married to Muhammad Akhtar. The couple had three children.

Akhtar, who is the complainant in the FIR against Bachaya, told The Tribune that while he had filed a complaint in the matter he might withdraw it in a few days.

“I believe he (Bachaya) has not done wrong. Nothing is above honour,” he said. “I would have also taken similar action had my sister left her husband and eloped with someone else,” he said, “I filed the report so that the police are informed of the matter. I don’t plan on prosecuting him (Bachaya),” he said. He said he would soon inform the police in writing that he had pardoned the suspect.

“When she returned home on Saturday, I sat down with her and tried to make her realise the consequences of her actions but she kept straying from the topic,” he said.

Later, he said, Bachaya came over to his house on finding out that Alina* had returned. Following an argument, he said, Bachaya attacked Alina* with an axe, chopping both her legs. She died while she was being taken to hospital.

Rohilanwali SHO Waseem Leghari said the police had registered a case on the complaint of the deceased’s husband.

He said an autopsy had already been carried out and the body handed over to the family. He said the police would proceed in the matter in accordance with the law.

*Victim’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Egypt: Over 3000 Muslims Attack, Loot and Torch Christian Homes and Shops, 3 Injured

"And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality."
~ Barack Obama, Cairo, June 4, 2009
(AINA) -- A mob of over 3000 Muslims attacked Copts in the village of Kobry-el-Sharbat (el-Ameriya), Alexandria this afternoon. Coptic homes and shops were looted before being set ablaze. Two Copts and a Muslim were injured. The violence started after a rumor was spread that a Coptic man had an allegedly intimate photo of a Muslim woman on his mobile phone. The Coptic man, Mourad Samy Guirgis, surrendered to the police this morning morning for his protection.

According to eyewitnesses, the perpetrators were bearded men in white gowns. "They were Salafists, and some of were from the Muslim Brotherhood," according to one witness. It was reported that terrorized women and children who lost their homes were in the streets without any place to go.

According to Father Boktor Nashed from St. George's Church in el-Nahdah, a meeting between Muslim and Christian representatives was supposed to take place in the evening in Kobry-el-Sharbat. But, by 3 P.M. a Muslim mob looted and torched the home of Mourad Samy Guirgis, as well as the home of his family and three homes of Coptic neighbors. A number of Coptic-owned shops and businesses were also looted and torched. "We contacted security forces, but they arrived very, very late," Said Father Nashad. The fire brigade was prevented from going into the village by the Muslims and the fires were left to burn themselves out. "Those who lost their home, left the village," said Father Nashed.

Coptic activist Mariam Ragy, who was covering the violence in Kobry-el-Sharbat , said it took the army 1 hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village. "This happens every time. They wait outside the village until the Muslims have had enough violence, then they appear." She said that she spoke to many Copts from the village this evening who said that although their homes were not attacked, Muslims stood in the street asking them to come to their homes to hide. "They believed that this was a new trick to make them leave, so that Muslims would loot and torch their homes while they were away," said Ragy.

The Gov of Alexandria visited al-Nahda, near Kobry-el-Sharbat, this evening and told elYoum 7 newspaper that the two Copts and one Muslim who were injured were transported to hospital. He said that the family of the Muslim girl whose image was on the Copt's mobile phone wanted revenge from the Coptic man. They broke into his home and torched a furniture factory located in the same building.

Joseph Malak, a lawyer for the Coptic Church in Alexandria, said it is too early to count injuries to Copts or losses to their property.

Mr. Mina Girguis, of the Maspero Youth Union in Alexandria, said that "collective punishment of Copts for someone else's mistake, which is yet to be determined, is completely unacceptable." He believes that the reason for this violence is fabricated, and the military is behind it. "They are trying to divert the attention from the second revolution which is taking place now."

Father Nashed denied that Islamists were present, only ordinary village Muslims, and could not give an explanation as why people who have lived together amicably for years could commit such violence. "Maybe because of lack of security, they think that they can do as they please."

He said that the nearly 65 Coptic families were ordered to stay indoors and not to open their shops and businesses tomorrow. He added that security forces did not arrest any of the perpetrators, "on the contrary, they were begging the mob to go home."

By midnight the violence had subsided.