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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Lavrov Defends Russian Arms Supplies to Syria

15:21 04/02/2012
MUNICH, February 4 (RIA Novosti)

Russia’s arms supplies to Syria will not affect the balance of power in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

“We’ve explained the facts: no matter what we supply to other countries in the region, this can in no way affect the balance of power in the region,” Lavrov said at the 38th Munich Security Conference.

He said that Russia’s arms sales to Syria had not changed the balance of power before the Arab Spring and did not affect the current situation.

“We don't supply firearms and what we supply is not used in the conflict,” Lavrov added.



Congress Calls for Accelerated Use of Drones in U.S.

February 3rd, 2012 by Steven Aftergood

A House-Senate conference report this week called on the Administration to accelerate the use of civilian unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or “drones,” in U.S. airspace.

The pending authorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration directs the Secretary of Transporation to develop within nine months “a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”

“The plan… shall provide for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.”

The conference bill, which still awaits final passage, also calls for establishment of UAS test ranges in cooperation with NASA and the Department of Defense, expanded use of UAS in the Arctic region, development of guidance for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems, and new safety research to assess the risk of “catastrophic failure of the unmanned aircraft that would endanger other aircraft in the national airspace system.”



Exclusive: Israel Warns US Jews: Iran Could Strike Here

Israeli facilities in North America -- and around the world -- are on high alert, according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News that predicted the threat from Iran against Jewish targets will increase.

"We predict that the threat on our sites around the world will increase … on both our guarded sites and 'soft' sites," stated a letter circulated by the head of security for the Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic States. Guarded sites refers to government facilities like embassies and consulates, while 'soft sites' means Jewish synagogues, and schools, as well as community centers like the one hit by a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.

The head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, told an audience at a closed forum in Tel Aviv recently that Iran is trying to hit Israeli targets because of what it believes are Israeli attacks on it nuclear scientists. Yoram Cohen said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the same militant wing of the government linked to the recent alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., is working tirelessly to attack Israeli and Jewish targets abroad in order to deter Israel.

Local and regional law enforcement and intelligence officials in U.S. and Canadian cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Toronto have been monitoring the situation closely for several weeks, and have stepped up patrols at Israeli government locations and Jewish cultural and religious institutions. They have issued awareness bulletins reminding officers to stay vigilant.



Google Sponsoring Conservative Political Conference Co-Hosted by Tea Party

By Brian Womack - Feb 3, 2012 12:01 AM ET

Google Inc. (GOOG), whose chairman has served as an adviser to President Barack Obama, is a sponsor of this month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, co-hosted by the Tea Party.

Google is one of nine main sponsors, alongside the National Rifle Association and the Heritage Foundation, according to the conference’s website. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are slated to speak at the three-day event, which starts in Washington on Feb. 9. Google is the only business listed among the primary sponsors.

The company says it will have a presence at both Republican and Democratic events during this year’s election season, including each party’s convention. Google also had a role in the Iowa caucus last month. The CPAC event was attractive because half the attendees are under 25 and heavy users of technology, Google said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

“This event is a great opportunity for us to showcase Google.com/elections and tools like Google+, which we hope will be used by every candidate and campaign,” the Mountain View, California-based company said.



Pentagon Says Afghanistan War Costs Dip as Surge Troops Leave

By Tony Capaccio - Feb 3, 2012 12:00 AM ET

The Pentagon’s monthly spending in Afghanistan dipped to $5.3 billion in October and November, down from an average of $7.8 billion a month in the fiscal year that ended in September, according to data compiled by the Defense Department comptroller’s office.

The drop reflects savings as U.S. military levels in Afghanistan decline. The U.S. stationed 98,000 troops there in October and 97,000 troops in November. There are 89,000 today, as the U.S. continues to draw down from the surge of 33,000 troops President Barack Obama approved in late 2009. An additional 23,000 troops are to be removed by September.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, attending his second Brussels meeting of NATO defense ministers since taking office last July, told reporters traveling with him Feb. 1 that the U.S.-led coalition would shift primarily to advising Afghan forces in 2013 as part of a transition to ending its primary combat role by 2014.

The U.S. still plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to conduct counter-terrorism missions and advise Afghan forces, Panetta said.



President Obama Said to Curtail $21 Billion Plan to Expand Military Presence in Guam

By Roxana Tiron and Gopal Ratnam - Feb 3, 2012 12:12 PM ET

President Barack Obama plans to curtail a plan costing as much as $21.1 billion to expand the U.S. military’s presence in Guam and instead will rotate some of the Marines through the Asia-Pacific region, people familiar with the matter said.

The administration now intends to send about 4,500 U.S. Marines stationed in Japan to Guam and to rotate an additional 4,000 through Australia, Subic Bay and perhaps a smaller base in the Philippines and Hawaii, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan hasn’t been announced.

The U.S. is realigning forces in the Asia-Pacific as the Obama administration refocuses attention on the region after more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, the Pentagon is seeking to cut about $490 billion from projected defense spending over a decade.

Some of the Marines going to Guam under the administration’s revised plan will be based in the U.S. territory in the Pacific temporarily, known as on rotation, instead of being permanently stationed there, the people said.



UN Diplomats Quarrel on Syria as Russia Resists Proposal to End Conflict

By Flavia Krause-Jackson - Feb 3, 2012 12:01 PM ET

Three days of negotiations on Syria at the United Nations Security Council failed to persuade veto- wielding Russia to back an Arab League plan to end the bloodshed in the Middle East nation.

“This is not done,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters yesterday in New York. “There are some still- complicated issues that our capitals will have to deliberate on and provide each of us with instructions.”

Almost a year after the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began, the UN is debating how to stop a conflict that it says has killed more than 5,400 people and is evolving into a civil war. At stake is how much support to give the Arab League, which imposed economic sanctions on the regime and has called on Assad to step aside.

Today’s death toll in Syria rose to 14, Al Arabiya television said. Yesterday, security forces fired at protesters and killed at least 17 people, the activist group General Committee of the Syrian Revolution reported on its website.



US Service Industry Growth Surges In January

(AP) WASHINGTON — U.S. service companies grew at the fastest pace in 11 months in January as companies started hiring to keep up with rising demand.

The Institute for Supply Management said Friday that its index of non-manufacturing activity jumped to 56.8 percent in January from 53 percent in December. The survey's employment index soared to its highest level since February 2006. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The trade group of purchasing managers surveys businesses including restaurants, hotels, retailers, financial services firms and construction companies.

The service sector has been growing for two straight years. But hiring had stagnated, with the employment index falling below 50 in two of the past four months. Companies overcame their reluctance to hire in January, pushing the employment index up to 57.4 percent from 49.8 percent.



Israel, U.S. Divided Over Timing of Potential Military Strike Against Iran

By Nicole Gaouette and Jonathan Ferziger - Fri Feb 03 16:16:54 GMT 2012

The U.S. and Israel are publicly disagreeing over timing for a potential attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“There’s a growing concern -- more than a concern -- that the Israelis, in order to protect themselves, might launch a strike without approval, warning or even foreknowledge,” Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator in the Clinton administration, said today.

The U.S. and Israel have a “significant analytic difference” over estimates of how close Iran is to shielding its nuclear program from attack, Miller said today. The differing views were underscored by public comments yesterday by senior Israeli and U.S. defense officials.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel must consider “an operation” before Iran reaches an “immunity zone,” referring to Iran’s goal of protecting its uranium enrichment and other nuclear operations by moving them to deep underground facilities such as one at Fordo, near the holy city of Qom.



Billionaire Buddies: Adelsons Join Forces With Koch Brothers To Take Down Obama

By Josh Israel on Feb 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

In recent years, billionaire oil magnates David and Charles Koch have bankrolled the Tea Party movement, Republican candidates, and efforts to deny the existence global warming. But less noticed have been their series of twice-yearly strategy coordination meetings for wealthy right-wing donors. These secret confabs have attracted Republicans like Govs. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Rick Scott (R-FL), as well as former Fox News Channel talker Glenn Beck, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and executives from the oil, banking, and health insurance industries.

The most recent meeting attracted two newcomers: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. Between them, the Las Vegas casino-owner and his wife have reportedly plowed $10 million into a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC and have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican party committees and candidates already this cycle.

A Center for Public Integrity report suggests this may just be the beginning:

Adelson has recently indicated strong interest in backing other GOP allied groups, say fundraisers familiar with his giving. In 2010, Adelson wrote a seven figure check to Crossroads GPS, a non-profit advocacy group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors publicly which was co-founded by GOP super consultants Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie.

The story quotes unnamed fundraisers “familiar with Adelson,” the American Crossroads super PAC and the 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS, as expecting Adelson to “pump a few million dollars more” into one of the Crossroads groups this year, to help defeat President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. They also say Adelson is also considering writing a check to the American Action Network, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)’s non-profit, to help preserve the Republican majority in the U.S. House.


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