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Russia: We're Happy To Sell Arms To Assad

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson , Shaun Walker

Moscow Wednesday 14 March 2012

Russia insisted yesterday that it would not halt arms shipments to Syria even as evidence mounts that the regime is committing crimes against humanity, with a rights group today releasing a sickening dossier of the torture inflicted on those who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

The comments by Russia's Deputy Defence Minister, Anatoly Antonov, that existing contracts will be adhered to despite reports of up to 8,000 dead, come as activists prepare to mark a grim year since their call for reform descended into bloodshed. Mr Assad's tanks continued to roll into dissident areas, with the army reported to have recaptured the rebel stronghold of Idlib near the Turkish border, until now held by army defectors fighting for the Free Syrian Army. Activists said dozens of people had been killed in the assault, their bodies dumped in local mosques.

The tens of thousands trying to flee the country face the added danger of landmines that Human Rights Watch says have been laid along Syria's borders with Turkey and Lebanon.

Carroll Bogert, a deputy executive director of the New York-based watchdog, told The Independent that these mines were Russian-made.



Turkey's Erdogan: Israel Must Stop 'Massacre' Of Palestinians In Gaza

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan severely criticized Israel's recent airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, saying in a speech on Tuesday that the attacks represented a "massacre" of the coastal enclave's residents.

Addressing Israeli strikes against Gaza militants in a speech to Turkish parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan urged Israel to "stop the brutal attack against Palestinians and stop the massacre and bloodshed."

The Turkish PM then referred to the Israeli strikes as "state terror," saying that the Turkish people must "remember that Gazans are our brothers, and will always remain so."

Erdogan also referred to the ongoing crisis in Syria, saying that "the window of opportunity was closing following the massacres taking place daily in the country," adding, however, that Turkey "was making every possible effort to prevent further escalation in Syria."



Egyptian Parliamentary Committee Urges Recall Of Israel Envoy In Response To IDF Strikes On Gaza

The Egyptian parliamentary committee for Arab affairs decided on Monday to urge the Egyptian government to recall its ambassador to Israel, Yasser Rida, from Tel Aviv, and to deport the Israel's ambassador in Egypt, in response to the IDF strikes on Gaza since Friday.

Sources in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said that the decision was taken unanimously, but that the significance of the decision is being investigated.



NJ Gov. Chris Christie: No Regret For Calling Ex-Navy Seal ‘Idiot’ At Public Event

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he has no regrets about calling a former Navy SEAL an “idiot” during a shouting match at a recent public event.

Christie’s comment capped off two minutes of increasingly heated back-and-forth with 34-year-old William Brown at a town hall-style event in Burlington County on Thursday.

“He acted like an idiot. He’s an idiot. I don’t have any regret about it at all,” Christie said Monday during a news conference after touring a regional high school and meeting with students in a financial literacy class.

Brown, an Iraq war veteran and former Democratic candidate for state Assembly, challenged the Republican governor’s plan to merge two public universities, Rutgers and Rowan. He is a law student at the Rutgers-Camden campus who opposes the merger.



Last US Sneaker Manufacturer (New Balance) Wants To Maintain Balance In New Trade Pact

By Vicki Needham - 03/10/12 01:51 PM ET

The last U.S. manufacturer of athletic shoes is working with a coalition of lawmakers to convince trade officials to preserve footwear duties in an Asia-Pacific agreement that they say will allow them to continue operating on American soil.

New Balance, which still produces about 25 percent or 7 million pairs of shoes here, and a group of New England lawmakers are insistent that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintain about 20 duties they argue will protect five U.S. factories from closing and moving overseas — three in Maine and two in Massachusetts.

The push comes amid opposition within the footwear industry, which operates largely outside the United States, and wants to see the tariffs on shoes either eliminated or phased-out within the trade agreement.

"We're not asking for special treatment," Matt LeBretton, who heads up the government affairs team at New Balance, told The Hill.



Legislators Protest US Visa Decision, Won’t Go To DC

Knesset members won’t attend a women’s empowerment conference in Washington, DC, in protest of the United States’s refusal to grant a visa to a right-wing MK, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced on Monday.

MKs Zehava Gal-On, Tzipi Hotovely, and Einat Wilf were scheduled to participate in a panel of American and Israeli female legislators at the conference in late March. According to Rivlin, they will not be attending because of the State Department’s refusal to grant MK Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party a US visa.

“The US’s argument that a member of Knesset is a terrorist is unacceptable and insults the honor of the entire Knesset,” Rivlin said.

Ben-Ari, a former Kach party member, was told his visa request was rejected because the US State Department prohibits “the entrance of people who were involved in terror activities or were members of a terror organization in a foreign country.”



Time To Clear Out Gaza Terror Once And For All, Say Some On Right

Several politicians and professors are calling for the government to expand the current military strikes against targets in Gaza, with some demanding the IDF “clean” the strip of terrorist infrastructure — despite declarations from leaders that they do not seek further escalation of the conflict.

On the fourth day of violence between Gaza terrorists and the Israeli military, the government in Jerusalem stated that it wanted to restore calm. But prominent Israelis from several sectors of society are increasingly advocating a reprise of Operation Cast Lead, a three-week campaign in late 2008 and early 2009 that included a ground invasion into Gaza that left 13 Israelis and more than 1,000 Palestinians dead.

“This might be a good time to ‘clean’ Gaza of its terrorist infrastructure. In fact, this should have been done a long time ago,” said Efraim Inbar, the director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

Inbar said he supported a full-fledged ground invasion of Gaza, which he said was ultimately inevitable. “An ‘Operation Cast Lead II’ could have its own merits,” he told The Times of Israel. While Israel will neither be able to topple Hamas, which rules the strip, nor prevent terrorists from smuggling weapons and rockets from Egypt, he said, Jerusalem should aim to deliver “a terrible blow” to Hamas’s capabilities to rain missiles on Israel.



Egyptian Lawmakers Don’T Want US Aid

In the wake of the NGO funding scandal the Egyptian parliament is to consider cutting more than $1 billion in US aid along with putting the military-appointed interim government to a vote of confidence.

The move by the lower chamber of the parliament comes after the March 1 departure of six American defendants in the case, leading to accusations that US pressure had led to interference in the judicial process.

The People’s Assembly urged that the person who allowed the Americans to leave Egypt be put on trial and declared its desire to refuse massive annual aid from the United States, Al-Ahram daily reports.

"We hope that members of the American Congress listen carefully to the decisions of the Egyptian parliament – the parliament of the revolution -and know quite well that the Egyptian people will never accept tinkering with the sovereignty of Egypt or American assistance to be used to humiliate it," parliament speaker Saad El-Katatni said as quoted by the paper.



Outlook for U.S. Consumer Spending Brightens on Employment Gains

By Bob Willis - Mon Mar 12 16:20:52 GMT 2012

Household spending may be about to pick up after stagnating for three straight months as employment and incomes climb and the weather turns more seasonable, giving the U.S. economy a lift.

“The situation for consumers has improved significantly over the last several months,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Group in New York. “Spending is bound to accelerate, the most important driver being improvement in the labor market.”

Employers boosted payrolls in February, capping the best six-month streak of job growth since 2006, Labor Department data showed last week. Consumer spending on utilities will probably return to normal after dropping from November through January because of unseasonably warm weather.

“Given the labor market and some of these weather factors, there is reason to be optimistic,” said Troy Davig, a senior economist at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York. “The warm weather has held down consumer spending, basically because of the direct impact of households purchasing less energy to heat their homes. That’s generally positive for the consumer, but the immediate impact has depressed consumption.”



Gaza: New Israeli Air Strikes Leave Four Dead

At least two civilians and two militants have been killed by Israeli air strikes on Gaza, medics say, as cross-border violence continues.

The latest strike reportedly killed a 65-year-old man and his 35-year-old daughter in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Earlier, two Islamic Jihad members died in Khan Younis. A blast also killed a 15-year-old boy in Beit Lahiya.

Israel says more that 240 rockets have been fired from the Gaza since Friday, injuring 35 people, one seriously.


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