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« Reply #14010 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:52 AM »

S. Korea to Hold Live-Fire Drill in Disputed Islets

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 June 2014, 13:09

South Korean military said Thursday it would hold a rare live-fire drill near islets also claimed by Japan in a move likely to further raise diplomatic tensions with Tokyo.

The navy plans to hold the exercise near the Seoul-controlled chain of islets, called Dokdo by the South and Takeshima by Japan, on Friday, the defense ministry said.

"The navy plans to hold live-fire exercises near Dokdo tomorrow as part of its regular training," the ministry said in a statement.

Seoul's navy and coastguard have for years staged joint exercises near Dokdo but those do not involve live-fire drills.

Friday's naval drill by the navy is not part of the biannual exercises.

The rocky outcrops in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) have been the subject of a bitter and decades-old territorial dispute between the two neighbors.

The row escalated in 2012 following a surprise visit by then South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.

Tension escalated earlier this year after Japan moved to revise school textbooks to strengthen its historical claim to the islets.

Relations between the South and Japan are currently at their lowest ebb for years, mired in emotive disputes linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, including the islet dispute.

Many South Koreans believe Japan failed to properly atone for abuses carried out during the Japanese occupation.

The latest move by Seoul also came as Japan began a controversial review of its landmark 1993 apology over the use of many South Korean and Chinese women as wartime sex slaves for Tokyo troops.


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« Reply #14011 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:54 AM »

Malawi's New Leader Mutharika Names Key Ministers

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 June 2014, 09:29

Malawi’s newly-elected President Peter Mutharika on Thursday named half of his 20-member cabinet, nearly a month after the chaotic elections that brought him to office.

Mutharika, who two weeks ago tapped former finance minister Goodall Gondwe to resume his position, has brought back several other old faces, including Henry Mussa as labor minister and Jean Kalilani to take care of health.

In a pre-dawn announcement, the president picked another former minister, George Chaponda, to man the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation.

The four once served as ministers in the 2004 and 2009 cabinets of Mutharika's sibling, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in 2012.

New faces in the cabinet include Francis Kasaira who is taking care of transport and public works, and Kondwani Nankhumwa in information, tourism and civic education.

Others are Emmanual Fabiano who was assigned the education, science and technology portfolio, and Allan Chiyembekeza who will be responsible for agriculture and irrigation.

Grace Obama Chiumia was given the ministry of youth, sports and culture, while lawyer Samuel Tembenu is the new justice and constitutional affairs minister.

The ministers will be sworn in on Thursday morning.

Mutharika had come under growing criticism over the delay in appointing his cabinet.

A presidential spokesman, Justice Mponda, told Agence France Presse that the rest of the 20-member cabinet will be announced at the weekend.

Mutharika has pledged a slimmer cabinet in a bid to cut costs in the impoverished southern African nation, which depends heavily on donor inflows to keep the agriculture-powered economy afloat.

The 78-year-old finance minister Gondwe, a former official at the International Monetary Fund, is credited with helping fuel an economic boom during the early years of Mutharika’s late brother’s leadership.

Gondwe, who was expected to present Malawi`s budget this month, as is traditional, will now do so in September to allow for wider consultation after donors suspended $150 million in aid last year after the looting of state coffers in the so-called Cashgate scandal.


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« Reply #14012 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:56 AM »


Syrian refugees in Turkey exceed 1 million mark

Deputy prime minister says number of those housed in camps and Turkish cities has reached 1.05 million

Haroon Siddique   
theguardian.com, Thursday 19 June 2014 10.51 BST   

The number of Syrians in neighbouring Turkey has surpassed 1 million, the Turkish deputy prime minister has said.

There are more than 20 refugee camps in Turkey near the roughly 500-mile border with Syria housing more than 220,000 people. But the bulk of people who have crossed the border are living in Turkish cities, mostly in the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa. They have taken advantage of the "open border" policy maintained by Turkey, a staunch opponent of the regime in Damascus, towards Syrian refugees.

The Turkish deputy prime minister, Besir Atalay, told a news conference on Thursday that the number of Syrians in Turkey had reached 1.05 million since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began more than three years ago. It began with largely peaceful protests but has become increasingly bloody, with a number of jihadist groups joining the fight to depose Assad and no end to the civil war in sight. Activists put the number of people killed at more than 160,000.

The first Syrian refugees crossed into Turkey in April 2011, prompting the Turkish government to set up an emergency tent camp for them in southern Hatay province. In 2012, it set up six container camps, including one in Kilis, which were meant to offer a better standard of shelter to incoming refugees. But Turkey has struggled to cope with the sheer numbers entering the country and conditions in other camps are much harsher.

On 1 June, the UN refugee agency put the number of Syrians in Turkey at 760,000. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, more than 2.8 million people have fled Syria. There are also more than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, making up a quarter of the tiny country's population, and 600,000 in Jordan. Iraq (225,000) and Egypt (135,000) have also taken in significant numbers.

As well as those who have fled the country, there are about 6.5 million internally displaced people within Syria and more than 9 million in Syria are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance.


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« Reply #14013 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:57 AM »

Leader’s Words About Women Jolt Morocco

By AIDA ALAMI
JUNE 18, 2014
IHT

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of Morocco told Parliament this week that women would be better off at home than in the workplace, setting off alarm in a country that has seen slow but steady gains in women’s rights.

“Today, there is a problem with women’s role in modern society,” he said Tuesday in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, when asked about the government’s position on women’s rights. “Women don’t even find time to get married, to be mothers or to educate their children. Why don’t we embrace this sacred status that God gave to women?”

The reaction on social networks and in the Moroccan news media was swift and heated. Columnists said the prime minister should solve the country’s economic problems and not offend women, and political rivals said his comments revealed the true agenda of his conservative Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party.

“This is a threat — an insult to all Moroccan women and all the fights waged for many years,” Khadija Rouissi, a member of Parliament with the opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We are all aware of the dangers posed to women’s rights, and we must mobilize against this.”

Some observers pointed out that with municipal elections coming up, the prime minister, popular for his plain speech in a local dialect, could have just been playing politics, trying to appeal to the conservative voters who dominate in Morocco. The Justice and Development Party, after all, has more female members of Parliament than any other party.

“What Benkirane is defending — family values, complementary roles instead of equality — is in line with what the vast majority of Moroccans think,” said Youssef Belal, a political science researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “It can also be argued that he is using language that feminists use internationally, which is that taking care of a household should be considered work and valued.”

Since Mr. Benkirane’s party took power in November 2011 and formed a coalition with three others, the Islamists have been careful to keep their ideology out of politics. In January, for example, Parliament amended a law to eliminate a loophole that had allowed rapists to walk free if they married their victims.

Still, many fear that Mr. Benkirane’s party, which strongly opposed revisions to the family code in 2004 that gave women more rights in relation to marriage and divorce, will roll back women’s rights and women’s gains in the labor force. Women make up only 26 percent of the work force, according to the Moroccan High Commission for Planning.

Mr. Belal said Mr. Benkirane’s comments were unlikely to lead to legislation that would roll back the rights women have gained in recent years.

“In policies and legislation, there haven’t been any breaks with the past” by the prime minister’s party, he said. “There have been small disagreements, such as the minimum age to get married, which has proven to be one of the biggest shortcomings of the family code.”
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« Reply #14014 on: Jun 19, 2014, 06:59 AM »

Pressure Grows in Hunt for Kidnapped Israelis

By JODI RUDOREN and ISABEL KERSHNER
JUNE 18, 2014
IHT

JERUSALEM — President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday denounced the abduction of three Israeli teenagers and vowed to help catch the kidnappers, as pressure mounted on him and threatened to collapse his fraying reconciliation pact with the militant Islamic movement Hamas.

With Israel intensifying its crackdown on Hamas and insisting that it is behind the abductions, Mr. Abbas said at a conference of Islamic leaders in Saudi Arabia that “whoever carried out this act wants to destroy us.” He did not mention Hamas, but he made clear that the Palestinian Authority was assisting Israel in its search for the teenagers.

“It’s in our interest that there is security coordination between us and Israel in order to protect ourselves, to protect our people,” he said. “We do not want to go back to the anarchy or destruction that happened in the second intifada.”   

Analysts said that while Mr. Abbas benefited from Israel’s arrest of scores of Hamas leaders who have long been his rivals, he faced public outrage over the coordination and might have trouble containing unrest if Israel’s aggressive campaign of night raids, home searches and checkpoints continued.

Zakaria Al-Qaq, a security expert at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, said Mr. Abbas was “trying to show he is cooperative, willing, helpful” and “behaving as a statesman” to earn credibility with the United States and other countries, but in doing so, he risked “being discredited in the eyes of his own public.”

Hamas officials lashed out at Mr. Abbas, highlighting the friction between the supposed Palestinian partners. One, Salah Al-Bardaweel, said Mr. Abbas sounded like a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. Another, Yahia Moussa, said he had “broken the red lines” and was “no longer interested in his people or his Palestinian cause.”

A third, Sami Abu Zuhri, issued a statement saying Mr. Abbas’s defense of security coordination was “unjustifiable” and harmed reconciliation, adding, “We emphasize our people’s right to defend themselves and counter the occupation’s crimes with possible means.”

The three teenagers — Naftali Fraenkel, 16, a dual Israeli-American citizen; his friend Gilad Shaar, also 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19 — disappeared June 12 while hitchhiking home from their yeshivas in West Bank settlements. Palestinian leaders have condemned Israeli actions since as “collective punishment.”

Israel has tightened checkpoints around Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city, all but closed crossings into the Gaza Strip and canceled visits to Palestinians in Israeli prisons. By Wednesday morning, Israeli troops had arrested 240 Palestinians, including top Hamas politicians and 51 former prisoners who were released in 2011 as part of an exchange for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier Hamas militants held captive for five years in Gaza.

Military officials said soldiers had searched 800 homes, caves and Hamas-affiliated charities, and news media outlets across the West Bank, confiscating tens of thousands of dollars, computers, grenades and machine guns.

“We have two efforts going on in parallel: The first is to bring back the boys, and second is to take a toll on Hamas,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman. “It’s going to strike a substantial blow on Hamas — its infrastructure, its institutions and everything that keeps it going.”

On Wednesday, the Israeli authorities approved 162 new apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, which Palestinians and much of the world consider an illegal settlement.

Early Thursday morning, Israel bombed five sites in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement from the military, hours after militants based in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel for the fifth day in a row, damaging a house.

The Israeli campaign was not limited to Hamas or the Hebron area. Mustafa Barghouti, who helped negotiate the April reconciliation pact between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas, said the Jenin headquarters of his Palestinian National Initiative, a secular party that advocates nonviolent protest, was ransacked early Monday, with soldiers destroying furniture and seizing hard drives.

He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “using this issue to undermine what was achieved in reconciliation.”

“What they are doing now is nothing but acts of political punishment,” Mr. Barghouti said of the Israelis.

Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, said it was clear that “Netanyahu wants to use this kidnapping as a way to accomplish something which he wanted to accomplish anyway, which is the serious degradation of Hamas activity in the West Bank.”

“Very quietly, and he won’t say this out loud, Abbas is probably very pleased with this as well,” Mr. Spyer added. “Israel and P.A. security officials share the concerns with regards to Hamas ambitions and what Hamas could pull off in the West Bank in the months ahead. There is a desire to push them back a little.”

Mr. Abbas’s office on Monday issued a statement condemning the kidnapping and the Israeli crackdown. But he went further on Wednesday in a speech broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Palestinian television and other Arabic channels, saying, “We can’t endure such operations.”

An official in Mr. Netanyahu’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said that Mr. Abbas’s “words will be judged” by the Palestinian Authority’s on-the-ground assistance in finding the teenagers, and that “the real test is the cancellation of the agreement with Hamas.”

Amid the crisis, reconciliation is suspended — or falling apart. Mr. Bardaweel, the Hamas official in Gaza, said in a telephone interview that the new ministers “do not want to communicate with Hamas,” adding, “It’s clear they are terrified and hesitant because of the Israeli threats.”

Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, said that “reconciliation is certainly the first casualty on the Palestinian side of this.” Israel’s crackdown will most likely increase Hamas’s popularity in the short term, he said, and the longer it lasts, the more Mr. Abbas “has to worry about losing control.”

“There is no doubt that Abbas feels the pressure,” Mr. Shikaki said. “Abbas feels that he made a deal with Hamas, and now Hamas is putting the deal and the P.A. and himself in a bad light and providing Israel with a golden opportunity to paint him negatively at a time when he really needs international support.”
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« Reply #14015 on: Jun 19, 2014, 07:01 AM »


Mass grave containing 28 bodies discovered in eastern Mexico

Investigators are still excavating grave found on ranch in state of Veracruz, which has been plagued by drug cartel violence

Associated Press in Tres Valles
theguardian.com, Thursday 19 June 2014 08.47 BST   

At least 28 bodies have been recovered from a mass grave in Veracruz, an eastern Mexican state plagued by attacks on migrants and drug cartel violence.

The state government said officials had found the grave on a ranch outside the town of Tres Valles. It said investigators were still excavating the grave, but did not release any more details. A local newspaper reported that marines had found the bodies after spotting vultures on a dirt road.

The area was being guarded by federal and state police forces, while people with missing relatives or friends began arriving at the offices of state authorities in Tres Valles to see if their loved ones were among the victims. Investigators were looking for more bodies on the ranch, which is known as El Diamante.

On Monday, authorities found seven bodies in a grave in the nearby town of Cosamaloapan. Authorities said the victims were all members of one family from Tres Valles.

The Gulf Coast state of Veracruz has suffered years of fighting between the Zetas drug cartel and its rivals. It is also crossed by tens of thousands of Central American migrants heading towards the US each year.

Officials have discovered a series of mass graves around Mexico in recent years, several filled with the bodies of migrants killed by the gangs that control profitable migrant-smuggling routes.

One of the largest single mass graves was discovered in 2010 in Tamaulipas state. It contained the bodies of 72 migrants, who authorities said had been killed by members of the Zetas, angry that the victims had declined to work for the cartel.


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« Reply #14016 on: Jun 19, 2014, 07:04 AM »

The future of astronomy is in the hands of the aptly-named ‘Extremely Large Telescope’

By Ian Sample, The Guardian
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 11:31 EDT

Shortly after lunch on Thursday afternoon the silence of the Atacama desert in Chile will be rudely disturbed by the dull crack of dynamite sending a rush of mountain rock skywards.

The explosion, planned for 2pm local time (7pm BST), marks the start of a month-long project to lop the top off the 3,000m-high Cerro Amazones. Once the dust has settled and the rubble has been cleared, the mountain will be smaller, flatter, and ready to host the largest optical and infra-red telescope in the world.

The European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT, will serve astronomers and cosmologists for generations to come. Size, as the name implies, matters. Some 2,500 tonnes of steel rigging are on order to hold a primary mirror nearly 40m wide. That is large enough to see the faintest light from the earliest stars, and signs of life on planets far beyond our solar system.

“Today we cannot even imagine what will be discovered with this facility,” programme manager Roberto Tamai told the Guardian from his office in the Chilean desert. “I feel excited. We are opening a highway for the future knowledge of astronomy.”

The telescope is the latest and most ambitious project for the European Southern Observatory [ESO], a multinational organisation of which Britain is a leading member. The UK has invested £88m in the E-ELT and will have a key role in the construction and operation of the telescope, and the advanced instruments it will carry.

But first the jagged peak of Cerro Amazones must be tamed. The mountaintop needs to be broken apart and bulldozed to a plateau large and strong enough to hold the enormous observatory. Perched on top of the reshaped mountain, the €1.1bn E-ELT will have near-perfect conditions for observing the heavens.

Cerro Amazones is not the first mountain to be decapitated in the area. Twenty kilometres away, across the B710 which cuts a lonely route through the desert, is Cerro Paranal. Engineers from the ESO cut that peak down to size some years back to build another facility, the Very Large Telescope (VLT). They will use the same procedure this time: blast and clear, blast and clear. In the coming months, more than half a million tonnes of rock will be removed from Cerro Amazones, leaving it 18 metres shorter.

Scientists and engineers will watch the first blast on Cerro Amazones from the safety of Paranal. The event will be filmed and streamed live on the web from 6pm to 8pm BST, though images from cameras closer to the action may take a day or two to release.

Work in the desert can be a hard slog. The humidity is down around 10%, making the air extraordinarily dry. The hotel at Paranal has a swimming pool in the lobby and for very good reason. “You can swim in it if you like, but the point is to keep the humidity at a bearable level. If you sleep for eight hours in 10% humidity, you are almost dead by the time you wake up because you breathe out so much moisture,” said Joe Liske, an astronomer at the E-ELT science office.

The low humidity is not the only problem for the 100 or so ESO staff at Paranal. Dust gets everywhere, in your shoes, your glasses, your car. The desert hues, shades of pinky, orangey brown, are monotonous. People come to crave a view of the sea, and the green of plants, entirely absent from the desert. Then there are those missing loved ones back home. “There’s a lot of sacrifice. Your private life goes ga-ga,” said Tamai.

The E-ELT will take a decade to build. The telescope’s huge mirror is too large to make from one piece of glass, so engineers will combine 798 smaller hexagonal mirrors, each of which can be moved independently. The E-ELT has a system called adaptive optics that can shift the mirrors in real time to counteract the blurring effects of the atmosphere. “We need to be able to adjust each one to get the perfect shape for the primary mirror, and that has to happen at all times to get the best possible image quality,” Liske said.

When the telescope is operational, around 2024, astronomers will point it at Earth-like planets orbiting sun-like stars in far away solar systems. So far, scientists have made only the most rudimentary measurements of these planets, but E-ELT could change all that. “We want to study the atmospheres of planets that are just the right distance from their stars that life might form on their surfaces. The goal is to try to say whether life might exist on some of these planets,” said Liske.

A planet’s atmosphere can hold numerous signs of life. The E-ELT will look for infrared signatures of methane, released by much of life on Earth, and other gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. The telescope could even pick up direct signs of life, such as chlorophyll found in vegetation.

The telescope will have many more uses though, many not yet dreamed up. In 2011, scientists shared a Nobel prize for work on supernovae, or exploded stars, that revealed how fast the universe is expanding. Isobel Hook, an astrophysicist at Oxford University who works on E-ELT, hopes to use the telescope to observe more distant supernovae. “We’ll be able to see supernovae much further away, and so map out the expansion of the universe to much earlier times,” she said. “The E-ELT is really the next big step for astronomy everywhere.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014


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« Reply #14017 on: Jun 19, 2014, 07:22 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Top US military official: not enough intelligence to launch Iraq air strikes

Martin Dempsey indicates reluctance to re-enter Iraq in assessment that US would have trouble attacking Isis from the air

Spencer Ackerman in Washington
theguardian.com, Thursday 19 June 2014 01.27 BST   
   
As Baghdad awaits Barack Obama's decision on air strikes against the jihadist army conquering much of Iraq, the senior US military officer suggested that the US still lacks sufficient intelligence to take action.

Army general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that "until we can clarify this intelligence picture" the US would have difficulty knowing who it would be attacking from the air, indicating military as well as political reluctance to any return to the skies above Iraq.

"It's not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it," Dempsey told a Senate appropriations subcommittee as he and defense secretary Chuck Hagel focused far more on the limits of what the US can accomplish in Iraq than the possibilities. Both sounded far less urgent than Iraqi leaders.

Dempsey, who once commanded the training of the Iraqi military and police, cited the case of an Iraqi army facility in Mosul falling first to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and then to the Kurdish peshmerga quasi-army within a 36-hour timeframe, raising doubts about the ability of the US air force or navy aviators to sufficiently know who they would be striking by the time of their arrival.

The murky picture, exacerbated by the relative paucity of US intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq, comes despite Dempsey's description of the US moving what he described as "a great deal of manned and unmanned ISR to gain clarity", using a military term for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes and other tools.

But Dempsey confirmed for the first time that Iraq had indeed sent the US requests for air power to stanch the advance of Isis, which has taken several cities over the past week throughout Sunni Iraq.

"We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power," Dempsey told senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

Reuters reported that US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Iraq's request had included a call for drone strikes and increased surveillance by US drones, which have been flying over Iraq for some time. The Pentagon has said it stepped up surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance efforts, at Baghdad's request.

The formal air power request complicates Obama's decision-making. While Obama administration officials have spent the past three days emphasizing what they are calling a comprehensive consideration of aid for the Iraq crisis – broader, they say, than a military strike – the request places Obama in the position of potentially rebuking a partner, however much a frustrating one, in a moment of extreme need.

Yet Dempsey and Hagel excoriated the government of Nouri al-Maliki during the Senate hearing, at times sounding like it was more to blame than Isis for Iraq's imperiled future.

Both lowered expectations about what benefits US can actually bring to Iraq, and sharply rebuked suggestions that the US is responsible for the crisis. Neither even remotely endorsed returning to military action in Iraq, from the air or otherwise, a significant omission from two of Obama's most important defense officials.

Asked if the consideration of a military response comes too late to stop Isis, Dempsey said: "It's only late if you suggest we could have stopped it. … There is very little that could have been done to overcome the degree to which the government of Iraq has failed its people. That is what has caused this problem."

Dempsey, saying he was speaking as an Iraq veteran, expressed "bitter disappointment" with what he called a failed Iraqi government.

Hagel, reiterating a theme of his perspective on foreign affairs both as a senator and at the Pentagon, repeatedly emphasized that the US "can't dictate outcomes. It's up to the Iraqi people." Both he and Dempsey acknowledged that there was a possibility that Afghanistan could follow Iraq into chaos after the US leaves in 2016, but downplayed the possibility.

Admonishing Senator Graham, a longtime opponent of the 2011 military pullout compelled by the Iraqi government, Hagel replied: "We didn't lose anything. It wasn't the United States that lost anything. … We have done everything we could to help them, but it's up to the Iraqis."

It was a theme repeatead at the White House later, where spokesman Jay Carney said Maliki had not done enough "to govern inclusively and that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq."

He stopped short of calling for Maliki - in power for eight years and the effective winner of a parliamentary election two months ago - to resign. Asked if Maliki should step down, Carney told reporters: "That's not, obviously, for us to decide."

Speaking in the Senate, Republican hawk John McCain called for the use of American air power, but also urged Obama to "make it make very clear to Maliki that his time is up." The Obama administration has not openly sought Maliki's departure, but has shown signs of frustration with him.

Obama briefed congressional leaders later on Wednesday. Speaking afterwards, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said the White House meeting had been "very informative" but said Obama did not specify an action plans, focusing instead on his perspective of what was happening Iraq.

Various and conflicting reports ahead of the White House meeting indicated a lack of clarity around the scope, mission and timing about potential air strikes, some citing the difficulties indicated by Dempsey about clear targeting. Veterans of air campaigns told the Guardian that time is unlikely to yield clarity as Isis intermingles with civilians in Iraqi cities, raising questions about what the US can accomplish.

Dempsey, who favored a residual US force in Iraq in 2011, told the Senate hearing that Isis had "aspirations to attack western interests" and said "not at this time but over time" the group could threaten the US homeland.

*************

Dick Cheney Rewrites History And Blames Iraq Violence On Obama In Disgusting Op-Ed

By: Justin Baragona
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, June, 18th, 2014, 11:00 am   

I think we all knew this was coming. Since the flare up of sectarian violence in Iraq, the cheerleaders and architects of the War in Iraq have taken to the airwaves and opinion pages to criticize President Obama over his decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq in 2011. (Never mind that the withdrawal agreement was signed by President Bush before Obama ever took office.) Over the past few days, we’ve seen neocon hawks such as Bill Kristol, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton step to the podium to attack the current administration for its handling of Iraq. Needless to say, they’ve all blithely dismissed their own roles in selling a disastrous war whose only outcome appeared to be chaos and disorder of the kind we are seeing.

However, the one person we hadn’t heard from yet was former Vice President Dick Cheney, the chief architect and liar when it came to the Iraq War. The wait is now over, as Cheney, along with his daughter Liz, penned an unbelievable piece of retcon tripe for the Wall Street Journal where they claimed that Obama lost the war that was already won, while at the same time positioning Dick Cheney as a hero. It is hard to imagine that one would have the audacity to write something like this, considering his own role in selling a lie and reassuring the American people that the war would only last a few weeks, yet here we are.

Right away, the Cheneys set the tone, claiming that President Obama is never right and that he is completely ineffective as a leader:

    Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is “ending” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so. His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality. Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America’s enemies are not “decimated.” They are emboldened and on the march.

Of course, per Dick Cheney, he is seen as a respected statesman in Iraq, and people keep asking him why the President abandoned the Iraqi people rather than keep a ‘residual force’ in the country forever. The obvious inference here is that the Iraqi people see Cheney as a ‘liberator’ and that the President wasted all the goodwill that the United States built up with a nearly decade-long war.

    On a trip to the Middle East this spring, we heard a constant refrain in capitals from the Persian Gulf to Israel, “Can you please explain what your president is doing?” “Why is he walking away?” “Why is he so blithely sacrificing the hard fought gains you secured in Iraq?” “Why is he abandoning your friends?” “Why is he doing deals with your enemies?”

    In one Arab capital, a senior official pulled out a map of Syria and Iraq. Drawing an arc with his finger from Raqqa province in northern Syria to Anbar province in western Iraq, he said, “They will control this territory. Al Qaeda is building safe havens and training camps here. Don’t the Americans care?”

Just in case the point hadn’t been hammered home enough that Obama doesn’t care about Iraq or take his job as President seriously, the Cheneys toss in some 8th-grade level insults (my guess is this was Liz’s contribution to the article.)

    Our president doesn’t seem to. Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change. Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

Gotta get a dig at climate change in there. Good job!

Thankfully, this display of hubris mixed with a complete lack of self-awareness shaken with a dose of heartlessness and poured into a glass of douchebaggery was not lost on others Wednesday morning. Once the Cheneys objectionable and off-putting op-ed hit the stands and net, the attacks came from all sides.

    Not The Onion: Dick Cheney op ed’s subhed: “Rarely has a prez been so wrong about so much at expense of so many” http://t.co/ySKED48dNw

    — Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) June 18, 2014

    Um, why is anyone listening to Dick Cheney on ANYTHING?! #Obama #Iraq #p2 pic.twitter.com/nMozh0qKk7

    — Eric Wolfson (@EricWolfson) June 18, 2014

    dick cheney, who helped to kill nearly 5,000 americans, lectures obama on patriotism. have a seat, monster.

    — Oliver Willis (@owillis) June 18, 2014

    IDK Dick Cheney being wrong about a country having WMDS at cost of $1 trillion & 1000s of troops lives is hard to top pic.twitter.com/acbxRE9Ben

    — Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) June 18, 2014

    Glad to see Dick Cheney collaborating with his daughter because if there’s one thing the warmongering industry benefits from is nepotism.

    — LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) June 18, 2014

    “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” Dick Cheney, 7/20/05

    — Kaili Joy Gray (@KailiJoy) June 18, 2014

    “I think it will go relatively quickly. Weeks rather than months.” Dick Cheney, 3/16/03

    — Kaili Joy Gray (@KailiJoy) June 18, 2014

Like I said when Bill Kristol got smacked down by John Heliemann for suggesting that we need to send tens of thousands of troops into Iraq for an indefinite period of time — if you were one of the ones responsible for getting the US into war, then you kindly need to sit down and stay quiet. You aren’t allowed to speak on this subject. Everything going on right now is the direct result of your actions and words. At this point, you need to be happy that you aren’t being tried as a war criminal and sentenced to death due to the destruction and decades of chaos you’ve brought forth. Just go away, never to be heard from again.

***************

Fox’s Megyn Kelly tells Dick Cheney, history ‘has proven you got it wrong’

By Tom Boggioni
RawStory
Thursday, June 19, 2014 1:33 EDT

With his daughter Liz sitting dutifully beside him, former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke with Fox News personality Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night, who confronted him over his complaints about the current administration’s efforts in Iraq, pointing out, “Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.”

Referencing an editorial written by Cheney and his daughter that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Kelly began by quoting a blog post by Paul Waldman in the Washington Post.

Waldman wrote: “There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz, not Don Rumsfeld, no pundit, not even President Bush himself — who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney.”

Pointing out that Waldman suggests that Cheney is responsible for the mess in Iraq, Kelly invited the former VP to defend himself.

“Well, obviously, I disagree. I think we went into Iraq for very good reasons,” Cheney responded. “I think when we left office we had a situation in Iraq that was very positive, we made major progress as a result of a decision President Bush made to go with a surge in ’07 and ’08.”

Quoting from the Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, Kelly read, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” before adding, “Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.”

Kelly proceeded to list off a collection of quotes from Cheney claiming Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, stating that America would be greeted as liberators, saying the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes. She then asked, “Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there, with almost 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?’

“No, I just fundamentally disagree, Reagan — I mean Megyn, ” Cheney responded. “You have to go back and look at the track record. We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about the extent of Saddam’s involvement in weapons of mass destruction.”

History later showed that Dick Cheney’s people worked in concert with Iraq dissident Ahmed Chalabi to place false information about WMD’s with the New York Times’ Judith Miller whose stories were cited by Cheney as outside evidence of WMD development.

Later in the interview Kelly asked the Cheneys if they thought President Obama was “dangerous.”

Liz Cheney enthusiastically jumped in.

“Yes, I’ll answer that one, Megyn. I think there is no question, I think that he is, uh, unique, in terms of a president who is sitting in the Oval Office, who has made made very clear that his desire is to weaken the nation, ” she said. “And, whether you say it’s his intent or naivete, you can now look at the results of the policies of the last six years.”

**************

Rachel Maddow: Dick and Liz Cheney descend into self-parody with ‘obnoxious’ Iraq advice

By David Ferguson
RawStory
Thursday, June 19, 2014 8:46 EDT

On Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow slammed the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz that appeared in Wednesday’s paper. In it, the Cheneys argued that President Barack Obama’s incompetence has bungled the fragile peace won by U.S. forces in Iraq.

The column appeared on the same day that the Cheneys announced their Alliance for a Strong America, a conservative pressure group designed to amplify the hard right perspective on foreign policy and “educate about and advocate for the policies needed to restore American power and pre-eminence.”

Maddow began by highlighting Liz Cheney’s “weird” and wildly unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate.

“Liz Cheney has been living in the Washington, D.C. area for many, many, many years, but last year, unexpectedly,” Maddow explained, “she moved back to Wyoming. She made claims that she’d actually been living there all along.”

Liz Cheney intended to unseat popular, long-serving Sen. Mike Enzi (R) by attacking him from the right. Wyoming voters were skeptical, and the Cheney campaign died an early death when the vice president’s daughter failed to make a dent in the polls.

“So, Liz Cheney’s last foray into politics, indeed, the last foray of any Cheney family member into political effort was basically a short-lived comedy of errors masquerading as a Wyoming senate race,” said Maddow.

Then came Wednesday’s announcement and op-ed column and the launch of the Alliance for a Strong America website, which, Maddow noted, has a definitely amateur-hour, “slap-dash” feel to it, with its spelling errors and clip art graphics.

Much of the world is “convulsing,” Maddow said, to see the same old Iraq War architects and Bush administration shills being trotted out as experts on Middle East policy. To see the Cheneys holding themselves up as avatars of a new policy rises to the level of self-parody.

“Who listens to this stuff?” she asked. “On the outside, it’s ridiculous, right? Seeing Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat and Liz Cheney at their misspelled website, telling us that they know what to do in Iraq. It’s like watching a particularly humorless, ham-handed left-wing parody in a student theater production at Hemp State in 2004.”

“I mean, nobody would accuse the Cheney family of something this on-the-nose, this brazenly obnoxious,” she said, “unless they did it themselves. And they did it themselves, there they are, it’s crazy. From the outside, it’s laugh-out-loud territory. But from the inside, does it work?” Will conservatives inside their media bubble swallow it?

That, Maddow said, remains to be seen.

**************

Why don’t you shut the hell up, Dick Cheney

By TBogg
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 13:41 EDT

It should probably come as no surprise that, on the heels of virtually every major media institution handing over precious airtime to the criminally stupid and incompetent folks who shoved the Iraq war down America’s throat after they were found to have been  asleep at the wheel prior to 9/11,  that someone would roll away the stone keeping Dick Cheney in his crypt so he could plague the country with his presence once again.

We had already heard from comb-sucking Paul Wolfowitz who suddenly became bashful about being referred to as the ‘architect’ of a misguided excursion that destroyed a country.  There was Paul Bremer who decided back in the day to sack the entire Iraqi army, making them free agents with guns and training in a world without jobs. Or electricity. Or running water.

That certainly worked out well.

Politico went so far as to track down and ask for the sage words of  Doug Feith; a man General Tommy Franks once called “the dumbest fucking guy on the planet,”  and is not to be confused with Jim Hoft who is the “stupidest man on the Internet.”

Of course, no debate about doing something profoundly stupid and ill-conceived and totally at odds with reality in the Middle East would be complete without hearing from the one guy who has been wrong about everything every time for forever: Bill Kristol.

Which brings us back to Dick Cheney,  Vice President who was the United States from  2001 to 2009, and  perennial Halliburton Employee of the Year from 2002 on, probably to infinity.

The man who who once had this conversation on TV in 2003:

    VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

    MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct and we’re not treated as liberators but as conquerors and the Iraqis begin to resist particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

    VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s unlikely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with various groups and individuals, people who’ve devoted their lives from the outside to try and change things inside of Iraq.

    The read we get on the people of Iraq is there’s no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Except, not.

With the help of his daughter — failed candidate for office and both Daddy’s Little Deferment and the amanuensis known as Princess Snarlyface — Liz Cheney, Dick penned a screed for the Wall Street Journal about the current conditions in  Iraq,  and in it he wants everyone to know that …

Nope. I’m not going to tell you, because it doesn’t matter.

Outside of  a tearful televised apology followed by ritual seppuku (pay per-view!), no one ever needs to hear a thing that Dick Cheney has to say again.

Fuck that guy.

Following his term as Secretary of Defense — that same period when he thought invading Iraq was a bad idea — Dick Cheney took over as CEO of government contractor Halliburton; a company that  made him a very wealthy man despite the fact that he wasn’t very good at it.  To repay them, and possibly make amends for his boneheaded stewardship, Cheny helped orchestrate the biggest boondoggle since the Vietnam War. Halliburton reaped billions while an estimated half million Iraqis perished and close to 4,500 Americans died.

Between the dead and the wounded, that’s enough blood to float a battleship.

While we don’t need to hear from Dick Cheney ever again, it wouldn’t hurt for Dick Cheney to hear from this Dick Cheney:

Dude, money changed you.

And  we’re all still paying for it.

**************

The Neocon Iraqi Lie the Mainstream Media Won’t Let Die

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
PoliticusUSA
Thursday, June, 19th, 2014, 7:04 am   

Iraq is in bad shape, being torn apart by sectarian violence, and it is going to get worse before it gets better – if it ever gets better. The sad truth – because we as a nation are culpable – is that there is nothing the United States can do now can make it better. The sad truth is that Iraq is in the shape it is today in because of what America has already done.

How, we must ask ourselves now, is how will doing again what we did before undo what we did before?

President George W. Bush’s criminal invasion in 2003 threw Iraq into chaos and his administration had no clear plans beyond toppling Saddam Hussein – unless you count plundering the country for all it was worth. That mission was accomplished very well.

We did not win there; indeed, we were lucky to get out after a decade of senseless fighting. Our purpose was ignoble from the beginning and the memory of the Iraq War does America no honor. And the Neocons want to go back and do it again- forever, if necessary.

Pat Robertson, in blaming President Bush for Iraq the other day, has shown himself to be more intelligent (or at least more honest) than,

    Karl Rove, who in 2011 claimed it wasn’t Bush who wanted to invade Iraq, that Congress pushed him into it;
    or Dick Cheney, who just the other day blamed Obama for misdeeds he knows perfectly well attach themselves to the administration of which he was a part;
    or Donald Rumsfeld, who has tried to glorify Bush’s misdeeds;
    or William Kristol, who blamed Obama for Bush’s signed agreement to pull out of Iraq.

Because somehow, in the Neocon mind, invading Iraq wasn’t the problem; leaving Iraq was.

Robertson, on the other hand, was correct in pointing out that George W. Bush is alone responsible for the current condition of Iraq. It doesn’t matter if Bush was a puppet or a puppet master. It was his watch and he was commander-in-chief.

Robertson gave it to Bush with both metaphorical barrels. Monday, on the 700 Club, Robertson said, “it was a great mistake to go in there.”

    To sell the American people on Weapons of Mass Destruction, it was a lot of nonsense and we were sold a bill of goods.

And,

    We should have never gone into that country. As bad as Saddam Hussein was, he held those warring factions in check and he contained those radical Islamists.

Don’t be too quick to give Pat a pat on the back, however. Robertson is being less than forthcoming about his own support for Bush during the war. As Media Matters reports,

“On the December 7 [2005] edition of Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, said Democratic criticism of the Iraq war ‘amounts to treason’ and that ‘carping criticism … just doesn’t cut it’”:

    ROBERTSON: We’ve won the war already, and for the Democrats to say we can’t win it — what kind of a statement is that? And furthermore, one of the fundamental principles we have in America is that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and attempts to undermine the commander in chief during time of war amounts to treason. I know we have an opportunity to express our points of view, but there is a time when we’re engaged in a combat situation that carping criticism against the commander in chief just doesn’t cut it. And I think that yes, we have freedom of speech — of course we do — but this has gone over the top and I think the Republicans are — well, they’ve taken advantage.

I guess the truth cuts it though, doesn’t it Pat, not that you’ll apologize now.

Then there is Glenn Beck of all people, who, if he did not exactly apologize, admitted those treasonous liberals were right all along.

Tuesday on his radio show, Beck said, “From the beginning, most people on the left were against going into Iraq. I wasn’t…. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.”

You have to look long and hard to find other conservatives who will even admit George W. Bush existed, let alone started the Iraq War – and on pretexts as flimsy as Hitler used to invade Poland in 1939.

Beck went on to say,

    Not one more life. Not one more life. Not one more dollar, not one more airplane, not one more bullet, not one more Marine, not one more arm or leg or eye. Not one more. This must end now. Now can’t we come together on that?

The facts are clear and they are beyond dispute, though not beyond the inevitable Republican obfuscation and dishonesty.

Coalition forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. This was the grotesquely-named Operation Iraqi Freedom (timeline here), grotesque because what it was in reality was “Operation Neocons Get Rich Quick.”

Bush said at the time that “”helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment” but the only sustained commitment made was to plunder the Iraqi people.

President-George-W.-Bush-Mission-AccomplishedOf course, then on May 1, 2003, he announced “Mission Accomplished,” which fails to explain the events of the past 11 years. In fact, the mission was so not accomplished that seven years later, in September 2010, it became Operation New Dawn.

Most particularly Bush’s alleged success in Iraq fails to explain the recent upswing in violence and the rise of Hussein loyalists and ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There is a dispute over acronym (see here) but no dispute at all that ISIS/ISIL is the worst thing to happen to Iraq since George W. Bush and his Neocon carpetbagging friends.

Those responsible are undeniably and unarguably war criminals according to International law the United States once supported. And they want to go back to Iraq, and the media is more than willing to entertain their views on the bizarre premise that people who have shown they don’t know how to do something are the people to ask for advice.

As Justin Baragona wrote here Tuesday – and this will sound familiar to you since we did this already in 2003:

    Basically, Kristol wants a bunch of US troops to go into Iraq to get into the middle of a civil war with no clear enemy or directive. In other words, create a bigger mess than it already is, and leave American blood on Iraqi soil.

And it worked so well last time! Ten years of war, without Obama’s 2008 win, could as easily have been 20. For Neocons – and for the mainstream media – it is 2003 all over again. No clear enemy. No clear directive.

Harry Reid says that all we need to hear from Dick Cheney is an apology for Iraq. That goes also for George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of their Neocon friends, and it goes double for the mainstream media, which has with malice aforethought perpetuated their lies for the past decade and is more than eager to do so again.

******************

The Media Embarrasses Itself by Treating the Lying Bush Bumblers Like Iraq War Experts

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Wednesday, June, 18th, 2014, 9:58 am      

Human beings’ progress and development throughout history owes a great deal to the intrinsic ability of pattern recognition. One of the benefits of pattern recognition is either recognizing one’s own disastrous actions, or seeing behaviors in other beings that produce catastrophic results to avoid repeating those behaviors as a means of self-preservation and likely success at surviving. The idea of human beings making choices they know are guaranteed to end in catastrophic failure is not only risking extermination, it is the mark of stupidity. The infamous Einstein quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results” has never been more prescient than in describing the state of the conservative movement and American mainstream media.

There is no accounting for the insanity of the conservative movement in deliberately repeating past mistakes, except, possibly, the conservative lunacy of never wavering no matter how often the position ends in failure. However, mainstream media has no excuse for repeating gross errors if for no other reason than the historical record they had a hand in documenting in great detail. Still, America’s mainstream media is as apt to repeat failures as conservatives likely due to the symbiotic relationship between corporate media and the conservative movement.

The insanity of mainstream media outlets was on grand display and obvious to any human being with a pulse on Sunday when “Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked one of the architects of the Iraq War what America should do “as a policy matter” to deal with the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Gregory’s question informs the brilliance of America’s mainstream media; ask Wolfowitz, one of the chief visionaries and supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq what action America should take to ameliorate the current civil war in Iraq that Wolfowitz and company had a major hand in creating.

It is not as if everything Wolfowitz and other Bush-era neocons purported about invading a stable, sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the terror attacks on 9/11 was completely wrong; including the crippling cost of the war in money and lives as well as the “guaranteed” presence of WMD. The abomination of Gregory’s query to neocon Wolfowitz is not that he did not know precisely what the neocon would say, because he did. Last March in an interview Wolfowitz argued that regardless the neocons got everything wrong about Iraq, including the lies pushed by the Bush administration that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction, he said that if Iraq did not have WMD in 2003, it “might” have got them later. He said, “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”

Broadcast media is not alone in its insanity to give Bush’s gang of Iraq War instigators a forum and standing as credible voices on what America’s involvement in Iraq’s civil war should be. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal set aside space for an opinion piece by L. Paul Bremer, Bush’s special envoy to Iraq, who disbanded the Iraqi Army and set the stage for the insurgency that is driving the civil war today. Bremer did precisely as every Bush neocon did leading up to the 2003 invasion and argued that America has no choice but to become militarily involved in the civil war neocons created in 2003. The theme of Bremer’s commentary was that sending in the military was the only American option.

Bremer said, “Of course Americans are reluctant to re-engage in Iraq. Yet it is President Obama’s unhappy duty to educate them about the risks to our interests posed by the unfolding drama in Iraq.” Americans were already “educated” once about the neocons need to engage in a war in Iraq and it is stunning Bremer is insane enough to make the same argument in the Wall Street Journal with an article titled “Only America Can Prevent a Disaster in Iraq.” Bremer, like the rest of Bush neocons know full well that it was their lust for war with Iraq that created the disaster in Iraq in 2003 that continues unabated today.

Bremer has been joined by William Kristol of the Weekly Standard who criticized President Obama over the weekend for “our ridiculous and total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011” despite it was his neocon cohort George W. Bush that negotiated America’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Kristol, a warmonger who never served in the military has spent the past few days calling for sending American soldiers to fight against and protect both insurgent Sunnis and Iraqi Shias to “stabilize” conditions in Iraq.

In April 2003, Kristol declared, like George W. Bush, that “the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably,” but he wants Americans to win decisively again despite the neocons Iraq war droned on for 8 long years and Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. Kristol said “Now is not the time to re-litigate either the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or the decision to withdraw from it in 2011. The crisis is urgent, and it would be useful to focus on a path ahead rather than indulge in recriminations.” Kristol also graced MSNBC yesterday where he argued, again, that America must send troops to get in the middle of Iraq’s civil war.

One expects, on one hand, for neocons to push for another American war in Iraq, and the other, to avoid appearing in the media for fear of reminding Americans they are solely responsible not only for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, but the current civil war their invasion created. However, it is the media outlets who invite the warmongers as Iraq War experts to repeat the same arguments for going to war in Iraq again that is despicable. It is imperative to remember that the mainstream media contributed to the neocons push for war in Iraq prior to the 2003 American invasion and yet despite the catastrophic results they are repeating the same behavior again. The mainstream media is as culpable for pushing the invasion and 8-year occupation of Iraq in 2003 as the Bush neocons, and by giving the same warmongers a venue to push for another war is beyond irresponsible.

American mainstream media began its rapid descent into incompetence during the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and it should be treated like a pariah now for providing the same venue for neocons to hawk for war. It is bad enough the corporate media is a forum for the conservative mendacity machine, but to repeat the same errors of giving the exact same Bush neocons a venue to push for war in Iraq again is not just insane, it is what Americans have come to expect from the corporate-controlled mainstream media; irresponsible activism in pursuit of giving conservatives the only voice in 24-hour news cycles.


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« Reply #14018 on: Jun 19, 2014, 08:25 AM »

NATO Says New Russian Troop Build-Up on Ukraine Border

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 June 2014, 16:27

Russia is again building up forces on the border with Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday, calling it a "very regrettable step backwards".

Rasmussen said "at least a few thousand more" Russian troops had been deployed to the border.

"I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems that Russia keeps the option open to intervene further into Ukraine," he told an audience at the Chatham House foreign affairs think-tank in London.

Rasmussen said he expected the West to meet any further Russian incursions into Ukraine in a "firm manner" with more stringent economic sanctions.

He said if the Russian deployment was intended to seal the border and stop the flow of equipment and weapons into Ukraine, it would be a "positive step".

But he added: "I also have to say that is not exactly what we are seeing."

Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko is currently pushing for a ceasefire in the separatist east following 10 weeks of unrest.

But fighting which has now claimed around 360 lives has continued unabated.

Poroshenko has also appealed for U.S. and EU help to secure the porous border with Russia and stem the influx of arms and militants.

Rasmussen said Russia's actions in Ukraine were a "wake-up call" for the international community at a time when defense budgets were being cut in many countries, including Britain.

He said that while there had been a 50-percent increase in Russian defense spending since 2008, NATO nations' spending on the military had dropped by around 20 percent.

"Russia's aggression against the Ukraine is an attempt to rewrite international rules and recreate a sphere of influence," Rasmussen said.

"The illegal Russian military actions in Ukraine are a wake-up call -- a reminder we cannot take security, we cannot take freedom, for granted. We have to invest sufficiently in security and defense."

***************

New Ukraine President Says to Sign EU Economic Pact June 27

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 June 2014, 16:34

Ukraine's new pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he would sign the crucial trade and economic relations portion of an historic EU pact in Brussels on June 27.

The old Kremlin-backed leadership's rejection of the EU Association Agreement in November sparked months of deadly protests that led to the February ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych.

The interim government headed by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk signed the political relations portion of the deal in Brussels on March 21.

But Kiev delayed signing the economic section because it demanded that Ukraine lift import barriers aimed at protecting its farmers and steel mills in the east from direct EU competition.

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that Poroshenko was considering pushing back the trade agreement's signature until he stabilized the recession-hit economy and resolved the pro-Russian separatist insurgency gripping the industrial east.

The complete pact's signing will effectively cut Ukraine off from a Moscow-led economic alliance of a few former Soviet nations championed by Russian Pig Putin.

Russia on Thursday once again threatened to impose trade restrictions against Ukraine should it sign the full EU deal.
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« Reply #14019 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:10 AM »

Casualties Reported as Ukraine Seeks a Cease-Fire

By ANDREW ROTH and NEIL MacFARQUHAR
JUNE 20, 2014
IHT

DONETSK, Ukraine — Reports emerged Friday of significant casualties in the latest armed clashes in southeastern Ukraine, even as President Petro O. Poroshenko conferred with President Pig V. Putin of Russia about final adjustments to the peace plan widely considered the best chance to end the hostilities.

Skirmishes for control of Krasny Liman, a railroad hub north of Donetsk, stretched into a second day. The Ukrainian military deployed both air and artillery strikes in attempting to oust the separatist fighters, said Vladislav Seleznyov, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry’s campaign against the rebels.

There is much riding on the peace plan, which Mr. Poroshenko and the Pig discussed in a late-night phone call for a second time this week, according to statements from both the Kremlin and from the Ukrainian president’s office.   

The Pig snorted the need for Kiev to “immediately end” military operations in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Kremlin statement said. He also squealed at Mr. Poroshenko that the plan should make a priority of resolving the issues that led to the uprising in southeastern Ukraine, according to the statement.

Mr. Poroshenko addressed the schedule for the plan, emphasizing that all hostages should be released and that effective control over the border must be restored, his office said in a statement. The separatists are believed to control eight crossing points.

In appealing for broader Russian backing for the overall plan, Mr. Poroshenko was specifically seeking support for a cease-fire. The Pig had squealed support for “the efforts aimed at de-escalating the situation,” the Ukrainian statement said.

The peace plan was due to be released at any moment, with Mr. Poroshenko making last-minute adjustments, officials in Kiev reported. In addition to speaking with the Pig, Mr. Poroshenko also sought input Thursday from political figures in the east of Ukraine outside the separatist movement, whose leaders have already vowed to reject the plan, given the ongoing fighting.

Mr. Poroshenko has said that he will call a unilateral cease-fire when he announces what has been advertised as a 14-point plan. Details from the initial draft that have leaked into the Ukrainian news media so far include some measure of decentralization, new elections and a more robust border with Russia.

In Moscow, the Pig also called a late-night meeting of his Security Council to discuss the violence in eastern Ukraine, according to the Kremlin. The council wants the violence in Ukraine to stop and the national dialogue to begin immediately, the Kremlin press service said.

The rising casualty toll in Krasny Liman provided a stark counterpoint to the peace plan, underscoring the likelihood of dire consequences should it fail to take hold.

Mr. Seleznyov said that seven government troops had died and that 30 others had been injured since fighting over a conduit road into the town began Thursday morning.

He also said that 300 rebel fighters had died in the fighting since Thursday, a figure that could not be independently verified. Mr. Seleznyov said the toll was “not propaganda, that’s a hard number.”

The figures were far higher than those provided Thursday night by rebel forces, which put both their injured and killed in the single digits.

The rebel troops were “holding fast” and had made several attempts to hold off the advance of Ukrainian government forces, Mr. Seleznyov said. He added that he was aware of the president’s peace plan but would not comment further, saying that he was only authorized to speak about “the ongoing antiterrorist operation.”

The fighting also prompted a phone call by the Pig to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and to President François Hollande of France to express his “grave concern” about Ukraine’s continuing military operations in Ukraine, the Kremlin press service said. The leaders also discussed the tensions caused by Russia’s decision this week to halt gas shipments to Ukraine over $4.5 billion in disputed bills.

The consultations among the three leaders are part of a pattern as Mr. Poroshenko hammers out his plan. The West has threatened to impose more sanctions if Russia does not act to lessen the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has denied any role in directing the separatist violence. But the presence of Russian fighters and war matériel, including the possibility of tanks, is seen in Ukraine and in the West as evidence of support from Moscow.

The peace plan will be a difficult balancing act. It must meet the demands of the constituency that elected Mr. Poroshenko, which is hostile to the east; as well as those of the separatists there who want nothing to do with Kiev; and of Moscow, which wants to maintain its influence over Ukraine.

The most important reaction will be the Pig's. Ever since protesters overthrew President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, in February, Moscow has been scrambling to find a way to preserve its sway in the region. Russia seized Crimea in March.

The threats of an outright invasion in the rest of Ukraine have receded, if not evaporated, although Russia announced on Thursday a new round of military maneuvers in the region that includes much of the border with Ukraine.

Moscow seems prepared to wait and see whether the Poroshenko plan meets its main demands. Those include giving significant authority to the separatist regions and preserving the status of Russian as an official language there. Moscow also wants assurances that Ukraine will not align itself too closely to the European Union and will not join NATO.

Mr. Poroshenko, who has said repeatedly that he will sign an association agreement with Europe, is scheduled to formally approve the accord next Friday, along with Georgia and Moldova. Russia has said that it would respond by revising its trade agreements with Ukraine, imposing tariffs in an effort to keep out cheaper European goods.

It is widely believed that Ukraine would have to reach a manner of accommodation with Moscow because Kiev’s economic problems are even deeper than its recent political disarray, and Russia has long been its most important trading partner.


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« Reply #14020 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:12 AM »

Britain Bans ISIL, Other Syria-Related Groups

by Naharnet Newsdesk
19 June 2014, 20:46

The British government on Thursday banned the ISIL militant group currently cutting a swathe through northern Iraq, adding it to a list of proscribed organizations along with four other groups linked to the Syrian conflict.

Security Minister James Brokenshire told lawmakers that terrorism related to the civil war in Syria "will pose a threat to the UK for the foreseeable future", and said banning the groups sent a "strong message".

It is now an offence in Britain to belong or invite support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the four other proscribed groups, or even to wear clothing or carry items in public indicating support.

After taking hold in Syria, where it is one of numerous groups fighting President Bashar Assad's regime, ISIL is leading an offensive that has seized Iraq's second largest city Mosul and a swathe of territory north of Baghdad.

"Today the UK is proscribing terrorist organizations that support the Assad regime, that are fighting against it, and those with ambitions beyond Syria that have taken advantage of the collapse of security and the rule of law," Brokenshire said.

He added: "Syria is the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world. Proscription sends a strong message that terrorist activity is not tolerated wherever it happens."

The proscription motion was passed unopposed in the House of Commons, but some lawmakers urged the government to go further than simply outlawing the groups involved.

Prime Minister David Cameron warned on Wednesday that militants in Iraq and Syria were seeking to create an "extreme Islamist regime" in the middle of Iraq which was "planning to attack us here at home" in Britain.

His government insisted it was taking action against the threat, notably by confiscating passports from or arresting people suspected of travelling abroad to fight.

Police have made 65 Syria-related arrests since January 2013, Cameron's office has said, while 14 people had their passports seized in the year to March, "a significant number" of them related to Syria.

The other four groups banned on Thursday include the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese group loyal to al-Qaida, and the far-left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which supports the Syrian regime.

Another is the little-known Kateebat al-Kawthar brigade, part of the Al-Rashideen Army which was primarily active during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

The fifth group is Turkey's Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a radical Marxist group considered a terrorist group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.


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« Reply #14021 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:38 AM »


Speak literary Russian or face fine, Muscovites warned

Checking Feisbuk on your smartfon could land you in bother in Russia if proposed new law is passed

Shaun Walker in Moscow
The Guardian, Thursday 19 June 2014 15.17 BST   
   
In the near future, if two Muscovites go for a biznes-lanch, they could be fined. If they then order a gamburger, they could be fined again. And if they get out their smartfon to check their Feisbuk, there could be serious trouble.

This, at least, is the future envisaged by a new law that would introduce fines for the inappropriate use of foreign loan words in Russian. The draft law was suggested by a group of MPs from the Liberal Democrat party, a nationalist force in parliament and often responsible for scandalous or outlandish parliamentary initiatives.

The law has been redrafted over the past year and will be examined by the Duma next month, after being approved this week by the parliament's culture committee. It proposes fines starting from 2,000 roubles (£34) for individuals, rising to 50,000 roubles (£850) for legal entities using foreign words inappropriately in public.

The law proposes fines for those who "use foreign words and expressions which do not meet the norms of literary Russian and which have commonly used equivalents in literary Russian".

"We are sick of these Americanisms and Anglicisms," said Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the party's leader, when proposing the law last year. "We will make a list of words that are forbidden from use when there are normal Russian words … It should be on the table of every journalist,TV and radio presenter, teacher, professor and writer."

Dmitry Gudkov, one of the few anti-Kremlin MPs still in parliament, told a Russian paper he would not support the bill, and said lawmakers were currently engaged in a "championship of idiotism" to see who could suggest the most ridiculous laws.

Another legislative effort raising eyebrows is Oleg Mikheyev's plan to outlaw high heels. The Russian MP has written to the Customs Union, a grouping that includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, suggesting it introduces regulations limiting heels to 5cm in height, as well as ruling out trainers and men's loafers.

"The harmful effects of wearing extremely high heels and flat shoes have now been recognised by experts of the entire world," said his proposal. "It's necessary to change this trend."

"We are not the first people to have this kind of initiative," said the deputy head of the Duma's committee on culture, Vladimir Bortko in relation to the language bill, Russian agencies reported. "The French were the first, as they were worried about Anglicisms and the disappearance of the great French language. I respect the French, but no more than I respect my own country and language – the language of Tolstoy, Pushkin and so on."

Bortko added that it was important not to go over the top with the law. The French recommendations carry no legal weight, and it is unclear who would be responsible for detecting and fining the inappropriate use of foreign words in Russia.

Eagle-eyed etymologists, however, noted that none of the words in the Liberalnaya Demokraticheskaya Partiya are of Slavic origin, so publishing the name of the party proposing the law could be enough to receive a fine.

Talking of which, the Russian for "fine" is shtraf – from the German word strafe.


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« Reply #14022 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:41 AM »


The dark truth about modern Ireland its media don't talk about...

Sinéad O'Shea on child abuse and much more

Guradian
06/20/2014

Filmmaker and journalist Sinéad O'Shea interviewed me for her 2008 documentary "The McCanns v The Media". She has made films and reports from all over the world. In recent years she has worked on child abuse investigations for the BBC, Al-Jazeera English and RTÉ.

I am carrying this guest blog in part because she touches on a topic I often mention - the failure of mainstream Irish media to do their job properly. But she goes way beyond the lack of inadequate reporting to consider the darker side of her home country.

I want to stress that this is her view, and not mine, but I do think her piece needs an airing. Absent a forum within Ireland, I am delighted to provide one here...
Ire Sinéad O’Shea

In the past couple of weeks Ireland's problem with itself has again become the subject of global headlines.

Four years ago Catherine Corless began collecting testimonies from former residents of the Bons Secours mother and baby home in Tuam, Co Galway.

The institution was run by the clergy and funded by the state to house unmarried mothers, the "untouchables" of Irish life.

Corless remembered the place from her own childhood surrounded by eight-foot walls with "broken bottles on top." There were so-called "home babies" in her school too.

They were, said Corless, kept to "one side of the classroom, arriving and leaving at different times so there would be no interaction with 'ordinary' schoolgirls."

The stories she heard were miserable. Children were fed little more than slops, and illness was rife. The state registration office informed her that 796 babies had died between 1925 and 1961.

None of the babies' names matched any of those in local graveyards. Given their status this was unsurprising. Even in death, illegitimate children could not mix with others.

Eventually, Corless concluded that the babies might be buried in a patch of land where "small skulls" had been found in 1975. By comparing maps she deduced that this might also be the site of a defunct septic tank.

She and a committee then sought contributions to erect a plaque to commemorate the dead children. Although local newspapers and radio stations were contacted, the story got little coverage.
Ireland's mainstream media hardly reacted to the babies story

Months passed. The story was reported by an Irish Sunday newspaper, and there was outrage on social media. But Ireland's mainstream media hardly reacted.

When I first spoke to Corless she was still trying to stimulate more coverage. And then, finally, the story of the Tuam babies was picked up by the foreign media.

By the time I visited Corless in Tuam, her husband was manning the phones because, to use his own phrase, the story had gone "ballistic." Corless spent all day talking to international TV crews.

There cannot be any doubt that the idea of 800 babies being hidden in a septic tank has garnered headlines but there are far bigger themes at play within this story.

For years there have been tales of mass baby graves in Ireland and scandals about the abuse of children, and of women, by both church and state.

Now the latest consensus is that this "new" scandal, the "last" Irish church scandal, be investigated and resolved.

So the Irish people have learned that mortality rates in Tuam were either matched or exceeded by homes elsewhere in the country - at Pelletstown in Cabra, Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, and Bessborough in Cork for example.

A 2011 television news programme, recently repeated, proved that babies had been subjected to medical testing without their mothers' permission. It has also been shown that children from poorer families were subject to greater neglect.

The Irish government has now launched an inquiry into what happened in Tuam and at other mother and baby homes. The terms of reference are being discussed.

Perhaps this will be the last church scandal, but it will not be the last deeply shocking scandal in Irish life.
The scandal of 'separated children' ferried abroad for abortions

Consider a related scandal I investigated last year. It began with this conversation.

"Well, you know some were taken abroad for abortions don't you?"

"No."

"Did you not?"

"No. How did that happen?"

"Well, you're going to have to find that out yourself. But I was always surprised that it involved so many people, government people and that it never got out."

That person's work for the government had been with "separated children", the term used to describe immigrant children who come to Ireland without parents.

At first I didn't believe this person. Abortion is illegal in Ireland and a deeply controversial subject. Cases involving the taking of minors abroad have attracted huge publicity.

Between 1996 and 2010, separated children had been housed in mixed hostels where they were left unsupervised after 5pm and after weekends. Over 500 children went missing during this period.

I had been told that there had been numerous pregnancies among this group and wanted to know more. The Mary Raftery Journalism Fund (see here) provided finance for my investigation.

The findings were extraordinary. Former care workers revealed that they knew some hostels were worse than others and that they used to send the "strongest" children there. The conditions experienced by pregnant immigrant girls in care were much worse than those experienced by Irish girls in care.

The state health service admitted that they didn't know how many pregnancies had taken place in total. It also confirmed that the initial source was correct. Girls had indeed been taken abroad for abortions. It had been "kept quiet." It was yet another "Irish solution to an Irish problem."

A senior manager told me there had been six instances since 1992. That figure was said to include both Irish and immigrant girls. But, according to information I received, that figure was too low.

My three-part report was aired on successive weeks by RTÉ, the state broadcaster, and I sent a summary of my findings to all the major Irish media outlets.

Little happened. Some said they didn't think there would be enough public interest in the story. That was eight months ago.

The treatment of those immigrant girls shows that many of the attitudes of the past still exist today. It was visible also with the pace of the Tuam story, indifference followed by over-compensation after foreign media had publicised it.

Female sexuality is still feared; poverty is still dehumanised

Ireland remains a society with a deeply small sense of self. It is a sort of weak-minded teenager desperate to keep up with the status quo. It's not what's said. It's who has said it.

Difference is confusing and thus threatening. Female sexuality is still feared. "Nice girls" don't enjoy sex. Poverty continues to be dehumanised. It is commonplace for middle class people to disdain travellers and to describe working class people as "knackers."

Many are now speculating that the treatment of the mentally ill is set to be the subject of another inquiry. The same is predicted for the current system for asylum seekers, direct provision.

State record keeping is still problematic, particularly regarding immigrants and children in care. It is very difficult to engage most Irish people, or its media, on such issues.

The narrative that Ireland presents internationally is that of the cute survivor of British colonisation. The reality is that the abused turned abuser a long time ago. Dissent is not welcome.

A polite way to describe Ireland is as a developing culture. Irish business leaders hate that. In fact, Ireland's economic and social problems are similar.

The economy has been built on cronyism, group-think, the double talk of absurdly low corporate tax rates and light touch regulation, the cult of the leader, an over reliance on "strong" international forces. These were the factors that caused the Celtic Tiger to collapse.

This has had consequences for all. It's the same for the system of shame and sexual repression. The impact has not been restricted to its most obvious victims.

Ireland is not just a bad place to be a woman or an immigrant, it's a bad place to be in any way "different." As a result, sadly, it's a bad place to be anyone at all.


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« Reply #14023 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:43 AM »


Neanderthal faces emerge from the gloom of a Spanish cave

Bones and skulls found in the cave show Neanderthal facial features appearing for the first time 430,000 years ago

Ian Sample, science correspondent
theguardian.com, Thursday 19 June 2014 19.00 BST   

Ancient skulls recovered from a deep cave in northern Spain are the oldest known remains to show clear signs of Neanderthal facial features, researchers claim.

Scientists reconstructed 17 skulls from pieces of bone found in the mud at Sima de los Huesos, or the "Pit of Bones", in the Atapuerca mountains. The skulls had some Neanderthal-like features, but their appearance was otherwise far more primitive.

Juan Luis Arsuaga, professor of palaeontology at the Complutense University of Madrid, said the remains belonged to a "missing link" population that fell somewhere between the Neanderthals and a more archaic group of human forerunners.

The term "missing link" has fallen out of favour with many researchers, in part because it implies a simple, step-wise progression from one species to another. But the phrase is still used at times to describe species that bridge a divide between distinct ancestors and descendants.

The skulls come from a haul of bones that belong to at least 28 individuals who came to rest in a chamber at the bottom of a 14-metre-deep cave shaft. The bodies are thought to have been washed into the pit after they died elsewhere in the cave system.
A Neanderthal skull from the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain A primitive Neanderthal skull from the Sima de los Huesos cave in Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain. Photograph: Javier Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films

Measurements of the bones, which are around 430,000 years old, suggest that trademark features of Neanderthals did not emerge at the same rate, but that some evolved much earlier than others.

The skulls at Sima de los Huesos have Neanderthal-like teeth and jaw structures, and other similarities in the brow ridges and nasal apertures, or channels. But their braincases are small, unlike the elongated crania of the big-brained Neanderthals. Of the 17 skulls reported in Science, seven have not been studied before.

The Sima population, as they are known, probably developed Neanderthal-like jaws and teeth from chewing and the heavy use of their front teeth and incisors for other tasks. "We think it's related to the use of their mouths as a 'third hand', or as part of their behaviour to grasp and to pull things with the front teeth," Arsuaga told the Guardian.

"We can't say they are the direct ancestors of Neanderthals. All we can say is that the population are members of the Neanderthal lineage. They are a 'missing link' between the Neanderthals and a population that was much more primitive," he added.

The Spanish team believe the more primitive population could be an ancient human species called Homo antecessor, which lived in Europe around one million years ago. "They could be the stem group before the split between Neanderthals and modern humans," Arsuaga said.

Neanderthals emerged around 400,000 years ago, and lived in Europe and Asia until around 35,000 years ago. They were replaced – though not before some interbreeding – by modern humans that evolved in Africa and colonised Eurasia 50,000 years ago.

In previous reports, the Spanish researchers had claimed the Sima de los Huesos remains were much older, around 600,000 years old, and that they belonged to an ancient group called Homo heidelbergensis. The latest study changes both of those interpretations.

"They now agree that the fossils belong to the Neanderthal lineage but not to the species Homo heidelbergensis. And they have revised the dating of the fossils to about 430,000 years, giving much more substantial agreement between our views," said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London.

"The rich Sima de los Huesos material, with every part of the skeleton beautifully preserved, will continue to inform us about human evolution 400,000 years ago as research continues on this astonishing, and even beautiful, collection of human fossils," Stringer said.


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« Reply #14024 on: Jun 20, 2014, 05:47 AM »


Paris becomes first city to extend bike sharing scheme to children

Paris adds 300 children's bikes, including balance bikes and bikes with stabilisers, to hugely successful Velib scheme

Will Coldwell   
The Guardian, Thursday 19 June 2014 15.26 BST      

It's difficult to know how Londoners would react to the sight of a Boris Bike with stabilisers, but in France, Parisians have welcomed the launch of a new cycle hire scheme that encourages children as young as two to hop on the saddle.

The P'tit Vélib program, which is an extension of the city's pioneering Vélib cycle hire network, launched on Wednesday with 300 bikes for children located at five green and pedestrianised spaces across the city.

Paris City Hall says it hopes the programme, which it describes as the first of its kind in the world, will familiarise young Parisians with environment-friendly transport while encouraging a new generation to discover the pleasure of cycling, "because good habits start early".

In a written introduction to the scheme, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said: "P'tit Vélib takes another step in opening up our city to all the children who live there or visit it. Introducing the smallest children to this most ecologically friendly and convivial mode of transportation will help make the Paris of the future more open to clean, shared and low-carbon transport."

The new bikes, developed and manufactured by JCDecaux have been designed to withstand heavy use while maintaining the style of traditional Parisian bicycles. Four sizes of bike are available to hire, including a pedal-less balance bike for children aged two to four, a bike with stabilisers for ages three to five and two larger bikes for children who have mastered the art of riding on two wheels.

Rather than being designed with the bright colours and patterns usually associated with children's bikes, the range is very much in line with the "clunky grey" aesthetic of the adult Vélibs, perhaps in order to prepare them for what's in store for the future.

The P'tit Vélib program was developed after Paris officials discovered that almost half of Parisian children learn to cycle outside of the city. A survey conducted by City Hall in January 2012 found that 86% of Parisian families were interested in a children's cycle hire service.

Rental points for the new scheme include popular cycling spots such as the peaceful Ourcq canal in the north-east of Paris and the vast Bois de Boulogne park in the 16th arrondissement. Two more rental points will open during the summer.

Depending on the location, bike hire will cost between €4-6 an hour and no more than €12 a day. Helmets are also available.

The hugely successful Vélib cycle hire scheme was launched in July 2007 and consists of 14,000 bicycles available at 1,230 docking stations around Paris. London's Barclays Cycle Hire programme, which launched in 2010, currently boasts 10,000 bicycles available at 720 stations.


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