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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Israel Says Iran Has Material For Four A-Bombs

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM | Thu Feb 2, 2012 9:45am EST

(Reuters) - Israel estimated on Thursday that Iran could make four atomic bombs by further enriching uranium it has already stockpiled, and could produce its first within a year of deciding to build one.

But in his rare public remarks, Major-General Aviv Kochavi, chief of military intelligence, held out the possibility stronger international sanctions might dissuade Tehran from pursuing a policy he had no doubt was aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Iranian denials.

Citing figures similar to those from the U.N. nuclear agency, Kochavi told Israel's annual Herzliya Conference on strategic affairs: "Iran has accumulated more than 4 tonnes of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and nearly 100 kilos at an enrichment level of 20 percent.

"This amount of material is already enough for four atomic bombs."



Palestinians Return ‘Lost’ Israeli Soldier To Unit

By Agence France-Presse

An Israeli soldier who became separated from his unit during an operation in a Palestinian West Bank village was safely returned to his fellow troops by local residents, Israeli media said Thursday.

The Israeli army confirmed that the soldier appeared to have gotten lost in the incident, but said they were still investigating how he was able to regain contact with his unit.

“From an initial investigation he was separated from his unit on Wednesday night but the rest of the matter is under investigation,” an army spokesman told AFP.

According to Israeli media reports, the soldier entered the village in a convoy of jeeps, but at some point alighted from his vehicle.



GOP Senators Unveil Bill To Spare Pentagon From Automatic Defense Cuts

By Associated Press,

WASHINGTON — Republican senators are trying to spare the Pentagon from nearly $500 billion in cuts that will kick in automatically next January because the congressional deficit-cutting panel failed to find a way to reduce spending.

President Barack Obama says he will veto any effort to undo the automatic cuts affecting the Pentagon and domestic programs to reduce spending.



Russia To Sell Arms For Syria & Veto The UNSC

RUSSIAN Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov says Moscow will not stop selling weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as Moscow stands by its longtime ally despite mounting international condemnation over the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown on a 10-month-old uprising.

"As of today there are no restrictions on our delivery of weapons," he told journalists in Russia, according to the country's state news agencies. "We must fulfill our obligations and this is what we are doing."

Antonov's remarks come amid deadlocked United Nations Security Council talks on a Western- and Arab League-backed resolution aimed at halting Assad's deadly crackdown against antigovernment demonstrators.

Russia has said it opposes the UN Security Council text, which calls for President al-Assad to step down. Last month, Russia reportedly signed a $550-million deal to sell combat jets to Syria.



Israeli Army Chief Says Nation Needs to Build Up Military to Strike Iran

By Jonathan Ferziger and David Lerman - Wed Feb 01 23:02:04 GMT 2012

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said his country must build up its military capabilities and be prepared to strike if economic sanctions fail to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Israel must be “willing to deploy” its military assets because Iran may be within a year of gaining nuclear weapons capability, Gantz said yesterday.

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency wrapped up a round of talks this week aimed at resolving Western suspicions that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear-bomb capability, and officials said they planned further discussions.

“There is no doubt that Iran is striving for a bomb,” Gantz said in an address to the annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center academic campus north of Tel Aviv. Its activities “must be disrupted,” he said.



U.N. Chief Urges Israel To Halt Settlements


RAMALLAH, West Bank - Israel must halt settlement building and present detailed proposals for a border with a future Palestinian state, visiting U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, as he tried to persuade the Palestinians to continue low-level meetings with Israel that the international community hopes will evolve into serious negotiations.

Ban praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and publicly backed him on key issues, including the demand for a freeze of settlement building on occupied lands the Palestinians want for their state.

With Abbas by his side, the U.N. chief affirmed that "all Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and prejudice" the outcome of a final peace deal.

At the same time, Ban urged the Palestinian leader not to let the current peace efforts lose momentum. The dialogue on borders and security arrangements began last month at the urging of the Quartet of Mideast mediators — the U.S., U.N., EU and Russia — which asked both sides to submit detailed proposals. The Quartet has said it wants a final deal by the end of the year.



Despite Drop After Criticism Spurs NYPD Order, Pot Arrests Still Top 50K In 2011

By Associated Press,

NEW YORK — New York City police still arrested more than 50,000 people on low-level marijuana charges last year despite a drop off after officers were told not to use tactics that critics decry as tricking people into getting arrested, according to New York state data obtained by an advocacy group.

In fact, 2011 arrests for the lowest-ranking marijuana misdemeanor rose slightly, from about 50,400 to 50,700, the New York Division of Criminal Justice figures show. The Drug Policy Alliance, a group critical of the national war on drugs, obtained the statistics and provided them Wednesday to The Associated Press.

The continued slew of pot arrests came as the drug policy group and some elected officials trained attention on the low-level marijuana charges that account for more arrests in the city than any other crime. Almost 35 years after state lawmakers raised the bar for booking people instead of ticketing them on marijuana-possession charges, these arrests account for about one in every seven cases in the city’s criminal courts.

The arrests have soared in the last 10 years. With the 2011 numbers, the New York Police Department has made more than 227,000 bottom-rung marijuana possession arrests in the last five years — slightly more than the entire span from 1978 to 2001, according to an analysis by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine.



Group Urges Credible U.S. Military Threat To Iran

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON | Wed Feb 1, 2012 12:51pm EST

(Reuters) - The United States should deploy ships, step up covert activities and sharpen its rhetoric to make more credible the threat of a U.S. military strike to stop Iran's nuclear program, a bipartisan group said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. politicians, generals and officials said in a report that the best chance of stopping Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons was to make clear American willingness to use force, although it stopped short of advocating military action.

The report by a Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) task force of Democrats, Republicans and independents is to be formally issued on Wednesday and comes amid speculation about the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran.

There is little evidence to suggest that U.S. President Barack Obama has any significant interest in the possibility of a military strike against Iran, though his administration has repeatedly said that all options are on the table.



Visiting German Minister Says German Upgrades Palestinian Diplomatic Representation In Berlin

By Associated Press,

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Germany has upgraded the Palestinian diplomatic representation in Berlin from a delegation to a mission headed by an ambassador, visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced Wednesday.

The decision followed similar steps in recent months by France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. It was seen as a boost to the Palestinian quest for international recognition.

Germany is one of the most influential countries in Europe and one of Israel’s most loyal allies.

The Palestinians have been campaigning for U.N. membership for a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.



Construction Spending in U.S. Climbs Most in Four Months in Stability Sign

Construction spending in the U.S. rose in December at the fastest pace in four months, reflecting broad- based gains that signal the industry is stabilizing.

Building outlays increased 1.5 percent, the biggest gain since August, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 51 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.5 percent rise.

A housing market that is gaining some steam as builders begin apartment projects may breathe life into the industry that’s struggled since triggering the recession in 2007. At the same time, decreased spending by the government may temper progress in construction as a whole.

“There are certainly bright spots for the construction outlook,” Michelle Meyer, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York, said before the report. “Multifamily construction will continue to improve given the ongoing shift from owning to renting and the lack of supply in the market. It will still be a very slow healing process.”


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