PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Twenty-one tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan's troubled northwest tribal region early Sunday, government officials said.
Officials found the bodies shortly after midnight in the Jabai area of Frontier Region Peshawar after being notified by one policeman who escaped, said Naveed Akbar Khan, a top political official in the area. Another policeman was found seriously wounded, said Khan.
The 23 policemen went missing before dawn Thursday when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked two posts in Frontier Region Peshawar. Two policemen were also killed in the attacks.
Militants lined the policemen up on a cricket pitch late Saturday night and gunned them down, said another local official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media....
-bth: it amazes me that the Pakistani population will stand for this over and over again.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
AFP - Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that its budget surplus hit 386 billion riyals ($102.9 billion) in 2012 as oil-dominated revenues surged, according to state television....
AFP - China's Hanlong Group intends to take over Australian mining company Sundance early next year and gain control over a key supply of iron ore in Africa, state media reported on Saturday.
The Xinhua news agency quoted officials at the privately owned Hanlong as saying Friday that the acquisition process was to start on February 26 and end March 1 after the submission of documents to Australian authorities.
Sundance Resources said in August that it had accepted a revised takeover offer from Hanlong in a deal worth about Aus$1.4 billion (US$1.45 billion).
According to Xinhua, the acquisition would hand Hanlong control of the Sundance-controlled Mbalam iron ore mine that straddles the West African countries of Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.....
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), owner of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has been sued by eight US sailors over radiation exposure.
They claim that Tepco lied about the threat posed by the leaks after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant.
The sailors were involved in relief operations after the natural disasters.
They have each sought $10m (£6m) in compensatory damages and $30m in punitive damages from Tepco.
The eight, who have filed the case in a US Federal Court in San Diego, also want Tepco to set up a $100m fund to pay for their medical expenses.
They have claimed that the utility provider created an impression that the level of radiation leaks from the nuclear plant did not pose any threat.
As a result, the sailors say they went to areas that were unsafe and were exposed to radiation....
The U.S. Senate renewed the warrantless wiretapping program begun during the George W. Bush administration by a 73 to 23 vote on Friday, sending the FISA Amendments Act to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature.
The vote marked a symbolic next step for the wiretapping program, which collects Americans' communications with foreign intelligence targets abroad. Four years ago, in the midst of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, an identical version of the bill was the subject of a highly contentious debate in the Senate. Obama and others argued then that Bush's program went too far in violating Americans' privacy. This year, with a supportive Obama in the Oval Office and the media focus on the fiscal cliff, the bill was renewed with much less attention.
After voting down reform three reform amendments on Thursday, the Senate continued debate on the spy bill on Friday morning. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) offered an amendment meant to force the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency to reveal how frequently they have collected Americans' communications as part of their efforts to amass intelligence on foreign targets. Even an estimate would suffice, Wyden has argued -- but the spy agencies have rebuffed his efforts to get a general number, claiming it is not possible....
-bth: we continue to allow our basic civil liberties to be eroded away.
Doctors from the Syrian American Medical Society recently said that the Syrian regime may have used Agent-15, a poisonous gas, against opposition members in Homs.
SAMS personnel said they interviewed witnesses and victims of the attack to draw their conclusions but have not conducted any laboratory tests on the substance. Regardless, they said it is probable that the substance used was Agent-15, or what NATO refers to as BZ, according to BusinessInsider.com.
“The gas effects started [a] few seconds after the area was shelled,” a SAMS report said, BusinessInsider.com reports. “Right after the shelling, patients described seeing white gas with odor, then they had severe shortness of breath, loss of vision, inability to speak, flushed face, dizziness, paralysis, nausea and vomiting, and increased respiratory secretions.
“Doctors who treated patients said that patients had pinpoint pupils and bronchospasm. Patients were treated in a field hospital. Gas masks were not available.”
BZ is considered to be an incapacitating agent, and though dangerous, it is not as lethal as some chemical weapons in Syria’s suspected stockpile, which supposedly includes sarin and VX gas. Reports of the attack remain unconfirmed and other Syrian opposition groups have said they believe the suspected gas to have been chlorine.
Friday, December 28, 2012
WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – American soldier suicides continue to outnumber combat-related deaths in 2012, and the trajectory for soldier suicides continues to get worse.
Statistics released by the Department of the Army show that through November potentially 303 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers committed suicide. As of Dec. 7, Stars and Stripes reports that 212 soldiers have died in combat-related deaths in Afghanistan.
The Army set a grim new record of 177 potential active-duty cases with 2012 coming to a close on Tuesday – 64 of these cases remain under investigation, 113 have been confirmed....
-bth: we need to be looking at drug interations that may be causing depressions. For example certain anti-malarial drugs can trigger suicidal tendencies.
Pakistan's army chief has denied accusations that the military is working to oust the country's civilian government amid tension over a secret memo sent to Washington earlier this year about an alleged coup.
The memo scandal has heightened long-standing tensions between the army and the government at a time when the country is struggling to deal with a violent Taliban insurgency, a faltering economy and deteriorating relations with its most important ally, the United States....
Thursday, December 27, 2012
... Such participation can accelerate if India allows majority investment by foreign players in shipbuilding and taps the potential of defence offsets.
Partnership is the way forward. India’s state-owned shipyards are in a growth dilemma — choked with orders they cannot fulfil for lack of technology and funds.
The ocean is too large to be anybody’s playground. Technology, with cruise missiles and potential anti-aircraft carrier missile defence, has shrunk geography.
India shares with democratic countries the maritime advantage — all of them have robust navies. Working with the democracies of the US, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia will be to its advantage.
This will need diplomatic innovation and a strategic re-jig. Without it, floating assets, even hefty ones, will count for little.
Islamabad, Dec 22: The Taliban today described the Pakistani cricket team's tour of India as a "disgusting gesture" and held out the threats of violence against India.
In a statement emailed to journalists, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said the "visit of Pakistani team to India is a disgusting gesture. Pakistan's government is doing all this on the orders of their god America and in fear of India".
He held out a threat of violence against India.
"God willing, mujahideen of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan will soon clear the debt of blood of martyrs with India".
In the statement titled 'Forgetting the blood of Kashmiris?', Ihsan said the Pakistani cricket team is visiting at a time when "India is the one forbidding Kashmiri Muslim nation to freedom".
Ihsan further claimed that "they (India) are also due to pay for the blood of our hero, Shaheed Ajmal Qasab".
The Pakistani Taliban had last month threatened to target Indians in retaliation for the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
... He becomes the latest in a string of leading military advisers to abandon the government and join the disparate rebels. But it is his claim that chemical weapons were used in Homs during a deadly attack on Christmas Eve that is likely to be of greater interest to the Syrian opposition and their foreign backers.
Reports from Homs had suggested that a type of nerve agent was used by the Syrian forces in the attack, a point that General Shallal appeared to verify yesterday. Al Jazeera reported at the time that at least seven people had died after inhaling a poisonous gas “sprayed by government forces in a rebel-held Homs neighbourhood”.
“We don’t know what this gas is but medics are saying it’s something similar to sarin gas,” Raji Rahmet Rabbou, an activist in Homs, told Al Jazeera....
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
... In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.
America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro, vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.
People “look at a child in need, in poverty or failing in school, and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ But what we do is ask, ‘Why does that child need help in the first place?’ And the answer is often it’s because [the child lacks] a responsible and involved father,” he said.
The spiral continues each year. Married couples with children have an average income of $80,000, compared with $24,000 for single mothers.
“We have one class that thinks marriage and fatherhood is important, and another which doesn’t, and it’s causing that gap, income inequality, to get wider,” Mr. DiCaro said.
The predilection among men to walk away from their babies is concentrated in the inner cities. In Baltimore, 38 percent of families have two parents, and in St. Louis the portion is 40 percent.
The near-total absence of male role models has ripped a hole the size of half the population in urban areas....
-bth: Forgetting the many moral benefits of a two spouse household, two parents at a minimum keep the household out of poverty.
Turkey has confirmed that Syria's beleaguered president Bashar Assad has asked Venezuela for asylum for his family as opposition forces continue to make military gains on the ground, Turkish daily Zaman reported Wednesday.
According to the report, Venezuela's Foreign Ministry informed Turkish diplomats that claims that Assad sent a letter requesting asylum to the leader of the Latin American country, Hugo Chavez, are true.
Turkey's Akşam daily reported Wednesday that Turkish officials in Caracas visited the Foreign Ministry and inquired about the letter. The Venezuelan officials confirmed the letter but declined to give details on its content.
-bth: if true this is significant.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to tighten defence ties with India and double levels of bilateral trade within three years as he headed to New Delhi for a summit on Monday.
Accompanied by several senior ministers and military officials, Putin will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a one-day visit designed to highlight the strong ties between two traditional allies and fellow BRICS.
"I would like to stress that deepening of friendship and cooperation with India is among the top priorities of our foreign policy," Putin wrote in an article for The Hindu, an Indian daily, ahead of his visit.
India is now the world's largest arms importer and Russian-made military equipment accounts for 70 per cent of Indian arms supplies.
However, while Russia once had a virtual monopoly over India's arms market, New Delhi has been shopping around of late and the visit is seen in Moscow as a chance to regain lost ground and develop joint projects.
"The strategic nature of partnership between India and Russia is witnessed by the unprecedented level of our military and technical cooperation," Putin wrote in his article, saying "the joint development of advanced armaments rather than just purchasing military products" would be key to future relations....
...The VA’s inability to pay benefits to veterans before they die is increasingly common, according to data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The data reveals, for the first time, that long wait times are contributing to tens of thousands of veterans being approved for disability benefits and pensions only after it is too late for the money to help them.
In the fiscal year that ended in September, the agency paid $437 million in retroactive benefits to the survivors of nearly 19,500 veterans who died waiting. The figures represent a dramatic increase from three years earlier, when the widows, parents and children of fewer than 6,400 veterans were paid $7.9 million on claims filed before their loved one’s death.
These veterans range from World War II veterans like Alderson who die of natural causes without their pensions to Iraq war veteran Scott Eiswert, who committed suicide after his disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder was denied.
The ranks of survivors waiting for these benefits also have surged, from fewer than 3,000 in December 2009 to nearly 13,000 this month.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the data confirmed the worst fears of many veterans and members of Congress.
“The common refrain we hear from many veterans is, ‘Delay, deny, wait till I die,’ ” said Miller, who called the burgeoning backlog of benefits claims a “national embarrassment.”
Nationwide, about 900,000 veterans and their families have been waiting about nine months for a decision on their claims, with those in America’s major urban areas waiting the longest. As of October, the most recent month for which numbers are available, the average wait time for a veteran was 15 months in Chicago, 16 months in New York and a year and a half in Los Angeles....
A Chechen newspaper has been closed down just hours after its editor-in-chief embarrassed the region’s Kremlin-backed leader while questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Belkis Dudayeva, the editor-in-chief of Kadyrov’s Path, provoked laughter when she asked Mr Putin a question which began: “Thank God that Chechnya has now become a region of peace and prosperity...”
The resulting laughter from other journalists seems to have stung Ramzan Kadyrov, inset, the head of the Chechen Republic, who announced later that the newspaper would be closed down.