Archive for September, 2010


Earth-Like Planet Found!

US scientists find potentially habitable planet near Earth

US scientists find potentially habitable planet near Earth AFP/ESO/File – This illustration released in 2009 by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shows the planet Gliese …

From http://news.yahoo.com/Wed Sep 29, 5:07 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US astronomers said Wednesday they have discovered an Earth-sized planet that they think might be habitable, orbiting a nearby star, and believe there could be many more planets like it in space.

The planet, found by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, is orbiting in the middle of the “habitable zone” of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which means it could have water on its surface.

Liquid water and an atmosphere are necessary for a planet to possibly sustain life, even it it might not be a great place to live, the scientists said.

The scientists determined that the planet, which they have called Gliese 581g, has a mass three to four times that of Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days.

Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet and has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere, according to Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and one of the leaders of the team that discovered the planet.

If Gliese 581g has a rocky composition similar to Earth’s, its diameter would be about 1.2 to 1.4 times that of the Earth, the researchers said.

The surface gravity would be about the same or slightly higher than Earth’s, so that a person could easily walk upright on the planet, Vogt said.

Gliese 581g was discovered by scientists working on the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey, during 11 years of observing the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which is only 20 light years from Earth.

For astronomers, eleven years of observation is considered a short time and 20 light years, which is roughly 117.5 trillion miles, rather close. The sun is around eight and a half light minutes from Earth.

“The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common,” said Vogt.

The planet is tidally locked to its star, meaning that one side is always facing the star and basking in perpetual daylight, and the other is in perpetual darkness because it faces away from the star.

With surface temperatures decreasing the further one goes toward the dark side of the planet and increasing as one goes into the light side, the most habitable part of the new planet would be the line between darkness and light, which is known as the “terminator”.

The researchers estimate that the average surface temperature of the planet would be between -24 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-31 to -12 degrees Celsius).

But actual temperatures would range from “blazing hot on the side facing the star to freezing cold on the dark side,” they said.

The findings, which will be published in the Astrophysical Journal and posted online at arXiv.org, “offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet,” said Vogt.

“Any emerging life forms on the new planet would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude,” Vogt said.

In their report, the scientists in fact announce the discovery of two new planets around Gliese 581, bringing the total number of known planets around this star to six.

That is the most yet discovered in a planetary system other than Earth’s solar system.

Like planet’s in Earth’s solar system, the planets around Gliese 581 have nearly circular orbits.

Two previously detected planets around Gliese lie at the edges of the habitable zone, one on the hot side and one on the cold side of the star, and are probably not habitable.

The newly discovered planet g, however, lies right in the middle of the habitable zone.

“We had planets on both sides of the habitable zone — one too hot and one too cold — and now we have one in the middle that’s just right,” Vogt said, recalling the porridge that Goldilocks found in the children’s story “The Three Bears.”

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5 Outright Illegal Scams That Should Put Wall St. Bankers Behind Bars

From laundering drug money to gouging you on overdrafts, here are five scams where Wall Street ran afoul of the law.

September 21, 2010  

Unchecked greed and financial insanity on Wall Street crashed our economy. Much of that insanity was legal — bankers lobbied hard for weak regulations, and got what they paid for. But much of that craziness was outright illegal, and in recent months, a number of shocking scams have come to light that could result in huge fines for banks or even put bankers behind bars. Though Wall Street has yet to see serious prosecutions for the current calamity, prosecutions are not at all uncommon after financial crises — more than 1,000 bankers went to prison after the savings and loan debacle alone.

From laundering drug money to scamming you on overdrafts, here are five recent Wall Street scandals that have “illegal” written all over them. The SEC is attempting to settle civil fraud charges it has filed in many of these cases, but in finance, the only difference between civil fraud and criminal fraud is the burden of proof. If the Justice Department wanted to go after many of these crooked dealers, it could.

1) Wachovia Launders $380 Billion in Drug Money

The financial crisis is full of complex schemes and indecipherable acronyms, but the most astonishing alleged fraud of the entire mess is pretty straightforward: Wachovia allowed Mexican drug cartels to launder $380 billion of drug money through its bank, repeatedly looking the other way and ignoring internal whistleblowers who alerted them to the problem.

This was a clear violation of federal law, but Wachovia appears to be getting away with it. The Justice Department is not seeking an indictment against the company, out of fears that it could destabilize financial markets. Instead, it’s reached a “deferred prosecution agreement” — effectively a settlement — in which the bank agrees to pay $160 million and promise to never, ever launder drug money again.

Pretty light penalty for, you know, laundering drug money. The fine amounts to about one-half of one-hundredth of a percent of the drug money that DOJ says passed through the bank. Outside the too-big-to-fail world, getting caught laundering billions of dollars in drug money doesn’t just earn you hefty fines, it plants you in jail.

And Wachovia wasn’t alone. According to the U.N., laundering drug money was common during the darkest days of the financial crisis, as faltering banks sought to get their hands on any money they could find — regardless of where it came from.

2) Chamber of Commerce Launders AIG’s Lobbying Cash

Money laundering has been very profitable for Wall Street, and not just drug money. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying front-group for a lot of powerful corporations, and some of its most aggressive members are Wall Street titans. A watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service accusing the Chamber and notorious AIG kingpin Maurice “Hank” Greenberg of tax fraud. Greenberg was ousted from AIG in 2005 amid a massive accounting scandal, but not before helping to establish the insurance giant’s ridiculous credit default swap wing, which would destroy the company only a few years later.

Greenberg and the Chamber are accused of abusing a charity in order to hide millions of dollars in lobbying expenditures by AIG. In 2003, a foundation handled by Greenberg gave $5 million to the charitable wing of the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber operates a charity called the National Chamber Foundation. The next year, Greenberg’s foundation gave another $10 million to the Chamber’s charity. In 2003 and 2004, 80 percent of the National Chamber Foundation’s budget was coming from Greenberg and AIG. The charity’s main function was to serve as a front for AIG lobbying.

Guess what? According to U.S. Chamber Watch, that money was turned over to the Chamber’s lobbying arm. At the time, the Chamber was raising tons of money to help reelect President George W. Bush, and AIG was trying to weaken accounting fraud laws. It’s illegal for a tax-exempt charity to funnel money to political operations. If the allegations are true, the Chamber’s charity would be shut down.

3) The $40 Billion Subprime Lie From Citibank and Robert Rubin

As the subprime mortgage market was falling apart in 2007, Citibank was trying to calm investor fears about a total meltdown — just like every other big Wall Street bank. Its chief tactic was to highlight that it had “only” $13 billion in subprime mortgage holdings, repeatedly touting the figure publicly.

The statement was true, if you ignored another $40 billion in subprime exposure that the firm held. Lying to shareholders is a major no-no in Corporate America — it’s considered securities fraud, and people can go to jail for it. The SEC is attempting to settle with Citi, but isn’t recommending criminal prosecutions or even charging individuals with formal wrongdoing. Instead, the SEC wants to fine Citi shareholders $75 million — a total slap in the face to basic conceptions of fairness, not to mention American taxpayers. See, if Citi execs did what the SEC says they did, then they were hurting their own shareholders. As punishment, the SEC wants to impose a fine on those same shareholders, the very parties who were wronged.

What’s more, the U.S. government took a stake in Citi as part of its epic bailout of the poorly managed financial behemoth. Taxpayers are being asked to help foot the bill for wrongs committed by the executives we bailed out. Thanks a lot, SEC.

The SEC has filed documents indicating that both Citi CEO Chuck Prince and board member Robert Rubin knew about the inaccurate statements, but isn’t filing charges against them. The stiffest penalty the SEC wants to impose on a Citi executive under the settlement is a $100,000 fine against Citi CFO Gary Crittenden. Crittenden took home $19.4 million in 2007 alone. I’ll bet he’s really sweating the rounding error on his bonus.

Fortunately, a federal judge has so far refused to sign off on the SEC’s settlement, calling it far too weak given the seriousness of the allegations. The SEC shouldn’t just be seeking huge fines against executives, it should be working with prosecutors on criminal cases.

4) Merrill Lynch: Inventing Fake Demand For Subprime Junk

This beauty of a scandal was uncovered by two investigative journalists at ProPublica. Like much of what happened on Wall Street over the past decade, it’s complicated, clever and totally corrupt.

During the boom years of the housing bubble, Merrill Lynch was top producer of fancy financial products called “Collateralized Debt Obligations,” or CDOs. Thousands of mortgages were packaged together and sliced up into securities called mortgage-backed securities, or MBS. Those MBS, in turn, were cobbled together to create a CDO — creating a byzantine product that former Merrill CEO John Thain now acknowledges was simply too complex to value — even supercomputers couldn’t figure the damn things out.

But creating gimmick securities and selling them to investors wasn’t the scam that caught ProPublica’s attention: shady as it was, just about everybody on Wall Street did that. When Merrill sold its CDOs to investors, it divided the big mess into different tiers, known as “tranches,” reflecting different levels of risk. The riskiest tranche of the CDO fetched the highest price, because it was the most likely to default, while the “safest” tranche fetched the lowest price. But as investors began to worry about the subprime craze in 2006, they stopped ponying up for the risky bits.

But this lack of demand was no problem for Merrill. When it couldn’t offload the tranche from one of these garbage CDOs, it just created a new CDO, and used the new security to buy up the unwanted junk from the old one. The result was a catastrophic daisy chain, in which Merrill was able to keep producing new CDOs by inventing fake demand — all while subjecting itself to dangerous levels of risk. By 2007, a full 42 of the bank’s 92 CDOs included pieces of other CDOs it had previously sold — 46 percent.

Often, two newly created CDOs would simply swap assets with each other. ProPublica says a full $107 billion worth of CDOs were created and traded assets within days.

Merrill wasn’t the only bank to engage in this behavior. According to ProPublica, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Swiss scandal-magnet UBS all did so as well. But Merrill was the leader, packaging the most CDOs and the most CDOs with gimmicked demand. These practices had a significant effect on the real economy — they kept mortgage prices inflated and kept the subprime machine moving, allowing the housing bubble to grow larger and more devastating. The SEC is investigating the practice for evidence of fraud.

5) Wells Fargo Overdraft Theft

Ever wonder how you managed to rack up such high overdraft fees? Well, there’s a decent chance you didn’t. U.S. banks scored an astonishing $38 billion in overdraft revenues in 2009 — pretty impressive for an industry whose total combined profit was just $12.5 billion that same year. For years, banks have been rearranging the order of their customers’ checking transactions, hoping to push account balances down to zero faster so they can charge more fees.

Say you’ve got $80 in your checking account, and need to pay some bills and run a couple of errands. You spend $30 on gas and another $20 on your water bill. Later, you head to the grocery store and spend $81 — oops! — on groceries. Any reasonable person would believe that the last transaction put you over the edge and earned you an overdraft fee, but megabanks aren’t reasonable people. Instead, the bank automatically processes your $81 purchase ahead of your previous charges. As a result, you do not get hit with one overdraft fee for your groceries, you get hit with three, because your costliest purchase was processed before the others — even though you made the cheaper purchases first.

Now, there’s no reason why banks can’t, say, notify you about your overdrafts before approving them. In the example above, you could have put the tomatoes back on the shelf and saved yourself $39. But reordering transactions is beyond the pale — if bankers did this with their stock options, it’d be called “backdating” and it could land them in a federal penitentiary.

A judge in California has now said that this practice violated state law, and has ordered Wells Fargo bank to return hundreds of millions of dollars in such ill-gotten gains to its California customers. But Wells Fargo wasn’t alone — every major U.S. bank had overdraft programs that worked the same way Wells Fargo’s did.

Zach Carter is AlterNet’s economics editor. He is a fellow at Campaign for America’s Future, writes a weekly blog on the economy for the Media Consortium and is a frequent contributor to the Nation magazine

Former Marine Corps sniper and security contractor Shane Schmidt dies at 33

Shane Schmidt, shown in Iraq, and others with Triple Canopy said a colleague fired unprovoked into an occupied taxi and pickup truck.
Shane Schmidt, shown in Iraq, and others with Triple Canopy said a colleague fired unprovoked into an occupied taxi and pickup truck. (Courtesy Of Shane Schmidt)
 
 
By Emma Brown 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010; 10:36 PM 

Shane Schmidt, a private security guard in Iraq who raised questions about lax government oversight of U.S. defense contractors when he accused his boss of randomly shooting at, and perhaps killing, civilians in Baghdad, died Sept. 19 at a hospital in Marshfield, Wis. He was 33.  

  

Mr. Schmidt, a Haymarket resident who was visiting family in Wisconsin, was crossing a road near Marshfield just after midnight when he was struck by a vehicle. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died, according to a news release from the local sheriff’s department. The incident was under investigation.  

  

Mr. Schmidt was a Marine Corps sniper who served two tours in Afghanistan before taking a job in 2004 with Triple Canopy, a Herndon-based company and one of the largest defense contractors working with the U.S. military in Iraq.  For $500 a day, he provided protection for American bases and visiting military personnel and contractors.  

  

On July 8, 2006, the former Marine was one of four Triple Canopy employees traveling in an armored sport-utility vehicle to the Baghdad airport.  One of the four, shift leader Jacob C. Washbourne, was scheduled to leave Iraq the next day for a vacation in the United States. “I want to kill somebody today,” he said as he cocked his gun, according to the other three men in the vehicle.  In two separate encounters later that day, Washbourne fired unprovoked into the windshields of an occupied taxi and pickup truck, said Mr. Schmidt and a colleague, former Army Ranger Charles L. Sheppard III. They suspected that civilians had been seriously injured or killed, although they didn’t know.   “I do not have a problem killing bad guys, that’s what we do,” Mr. Schmidt told the New York Times in 2006. “But murdering innocent civilians? That is wrong, and justice has to be served.”   Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard, who said they feared reprisal from Washbourne, waited two days until he had left the country before reporting what they had witnessed to top Triple Canopy managers.  

  

An internal investigation followed. Washbourne denied every accusation. Triple Canopy fired Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard, saying that they had violated company policy by failing to report the shootings right away.  

The fourth guard, Fiji native Isireli Naucukidi, reported the July 8 incidents immediately – offering an account that differed slightly from the others – and then left Triple Canopy on his own.  

“I couldn’t stand what was happening,” Naucukidi told The Washington Post in 2007. “It seemed like every day they were covering something up.”  The incident might never have become public had Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard not decided to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Triple Canopy in 2006. The pair said that they had been fired for reporting Washbourne’s attempted murders. The case went to trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court in August 2007, and a jury found in favor of Triple Canopy.  On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned that ruling and ordered a new trial, saying that the judge had given the wrong instructions to the jury in the original trial.  The parties reached a settlement out of court. The terms were not disclosed.  In recent years, Mr. Schmidt worked for several defense contractors, working up from field security operations to positions in management.  

  

Shane Beauford Schmidt was born May 27, 1977, in Wausau, Wis. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1994, before graduating from high school, and left for boot camp the following year.   He served in the Marine Corps until 2003. His military decorations included the Navy Commendation Medal.  Mr. Schmidt’s first marriage, to Cori Markof, ended in divorce. He married Joanne Miller in January.  

In addition to his wife, of Haymarket, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Sabrina Schmidt and Roman Schmidt, both of Marshfield; his mother, Diane Schmidt of Wausau; his grandfather, Kenneth Schmidt Sr. of Wausau; and two sisters.  

  

Although what happened on the road to the Baghdad airport July 8, 2006, might never be clear, media coverage of Mr. Schmidt’s story helped draw attention to questions about how and whether the U.S. government and its defense contractors handled allegations of criminal misconduct by private employees.  

Working for a security outfit in Iraq was a lot like going to war with the Marine Corps, except there were fewer restrictions, Mr. Schmidt said. He told former Post reporter Steve Fainaru, who wrote the book “Big Boy Rules,” about the culture of lawlessness among contractors working in Iraq: “The rules of engagement, the way they were briefed to me, was, ‘If you feel threatened, take a shot.’ ”  

   

9/11: PENTAGON AIRCRAFT HIJACK IMPOSSIBLE
FLIGHT DECK DOOR CLOSED FOR ENTIRE FLIGHT
 

(PilotsFor911Truth.org) – Newly decoded data provided by an independent researcher and computer programmer from Australia exposes alarming evidence that the reported hijacking aboard American Airlines Flight 77 was impossible to have existed. A data parameter labeled "FLT DECK DOOR", cross checks with previously decoded data obtained by Pilots For 9/11 Truth from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) through the Freedom Of Information Act.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 departed Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles at 8:20 am Eastern Time. According to reports and data, a hijacking took place between 08:50:54 and 08:54:11[1] in which the hijackers allegedly crashed the aircraft into the Pentagon at 09:37:45. Reported by CNN, according to Ted Olson, wife Barbara Olson had called him from the reported flight stating, "…all passengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by armed hijackers…"[2]. However, according to Flight Data provided by the NTSB, the Flight Deck Door was never opened in flight. How were the hijackers able to gain access to the cockpit, remove the pilots, and navigate the aircraft to the Pentagon if the Flight Deck Door remained closed?[3]

Founded in August 2006, Pilots For 9/11 Truth is a growing organization of aviation professionals from around the globe. The organization has analyzed Data provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for the Pentagon Attack, the events in Shanksville, PA and the World Trade Center attack. The data does not support the government story. The NTSB/FBI refuse to comment. Pilots For 9/11 Truth do not offer theory or point blame at this point in time. However, there is a growing mountain of conflicting information and data in which government agencies and officials along with Mainstream Media refuse to acknowledge. Pilots For 9/11 Truth Core member list continues to grow.

http://pilotsfor911truth.org/core.html for full member list.

http://pilotsfor911truth.org/join to join.

[1] Hijacker Timeline – http://pilotsfor911truth.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=17

[2] Common Strategy Prior to 9/11/2001 – http://pilotsfor911truth.org/pentagon.html

[3] Right click and save target as here to download csv file with "FLT DECK DOOR" parameter.

Flashback – "President John F Kennedy Secret Society Speech" & "Eisenhower warns us of the military industrial complex"

From www.whatreallyhappened.com

"Listen to this incredible audio recording of a speech made by JFK before the American Newspaper Publishers Association where he warns the press about the secret societies that are the real power in global affairs."

Dwight D. Eisenhower exit speech on Jan.17,1961.
Warning us of the military industrial complex.

Swine Flu Deception – The Complete Idiot’s Guide

Alert icon

  

ARCHITECTS & ENGINEERS FOR 9/11 TRUTH HIT THE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM

– 25. Sep, 2010 from http://mycatbirdseat.com/2010/09/architects-engineers-for-911-truth-hit-the-american-mainstream/

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered;

the point is to discover them”

Galileo Galilei(1564 – 1642)

Veterans Today

Nobody in his right mind, nobody with the least critical thinking could possibly buy into the 9/11 official story of the reason why the world trade center towers collapsed – at free fall speed- like a house of cards into their basements in just few seconds- WTC building 7 collapsed in exactly 6.5 seconds. Something only very precise demolition can accomplish, something which takes days if not weeks to prepare.

Whoever planned the 9/11 operation and whoever managed to fool the masses of  terrorized people and tricked them into believing that al Qa`ida and its members of Afghanistan cave dwellers pulled this thing off did not consider that scientists and trained specialists would be the ones to finally expose the conspiracy and unravel 9/11 mystery.

In a previous post by the title “Danish scientist breaks the 9/11 culture of silence” We explained why professor Neil Harrits– a Danish professor of chemistry believed the two airplanes- impacts did not cause the towers to collapse.  And according to a newly published scientific article, researchers found Nano-Thermite explosive in the rubble of WTC collapsed buildings that couldn’t have come from the planes. They believe large amounts of explosives were placed in the buildings in advance.

Niels Harrit and eight other researchers conclude in this article that it was Nano-Thermite that caused these buildings to collapse.

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth

Richard Gage, AIA, Founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) with former Senator Gravel, held a press conference Presenting Findings on September 9, 2010 at National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

They presented the group’s findings and called for a new investigation into the destruction of the 3 World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9/11.

Their findings are based on the following scientific observations and Hard Evidence of Explosive Demolition of the WTC towers.

As seen in this revealing photo, the Twin Towers’ destruction exhibited all of the characteristics of destruction by explosives:

  1. Destruction proceeds through the path of greatest resistance at nearly free-fall acceleration
  • Improbable symmetry of debris distribution
  • Extremely rapid onset of destruction
  • Over 100 first responders reported explosions and flashes
  • Multi-ton steel sections ejected laterally
  • Mid-air pulverization of 90,000 tons of concrete & metal decking
  • Massive volume of expanding pyroclastic-like clouds
  • 1200-foot-dia. debris field: no “pancaked” floors found
  • Isolated explosive ejections 20 – 40 stories below demolition front
  • Total building destruction: dismemberment of steel frame
  • Several tons of molten metal found under all 3 high-rises
  • Evidence of thermite incendiaries found by FEMA in steel samples
  • Evidence of explosives found in dust samples
  • No precedent for steel-framed high-rise collapse due to fire
  • And exhibited none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, i.e.

    1. Slow onset with large visible deformations
    2. Asymmetrical collapse which follows the path of least resistance (laws of conservation of momentum would cause a falling, intact, from the point of plane impact, to the side most damaged by the fires)
    3. Evidence of fire temperatures capable of softening steel
    4. High-rise buildings with much larger, hotter, and longer lasting fires have never “collapsed”

    WTC Building #7, a 47-story high-rise not hit by an airplane, exhibited all the characteristics of classic controlled demolition with explosives:

    1. Rapid onset of “collapse” 

    2. Sounds of explosions at ground floor – a second before the building’s destruction

    3.Symmetrical “structural failure” — through the path of greatest resistance — at free-fall acceleration

    4. Imploded, collapsing completely, and landed in its own footprint

    5. Massive volume of expanding pyroclastic dust clouds

    6. Expert corroboration from the top European Controlled Demolition professional

    7. Fore-knowledge of “collapse” by media, NYPD, FDNY

    In the the aftermath of WTC7?s destruction, strong evidence of demolition using incendary devices was discovered:

    8. FEMA finds rapid oxidation and intergranular melting on structural steel samples

    9. Several tons of molten metal reported by numerous highly-qualified witnesses

    10. Chemical signature of thermite (high tech incendiary) found in solidified molten metal, and dust samples

    WTC7 exhibited none of the characteristics of destruction by fire, i.e.

    1. Slow onset with large visible deformations

    2. Asymmetrical collapse which follows the path of least resistance (laws of conservation of momentum would cause a falling, to the side most damaged by the fires)

    3. Evidence of fire temperatures capable of softening steel

    4. High-rise buildings with much larger, hotter, and longer lasting fires have never “collapsed”.

      
    YouTube – Veterans Today -Richard Gage, AIA, Founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth

    Bono’s ONE foundation under fire for giving little over 1% of funds to charity

     

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Last updated at 9:48 PM on 23rd September 2010

    Bono’s anti-poverty foundation ONE is under pressure to explain its finances after it was revealed that only a small percentage of money it raises reaches the needy.

    The non-profit organisation set up by the U2 frontman received almost £9.6million in donations in 2008 but handed out only £118,000 to good causes (1.2 per cent).

    The figures published by the New York Post also show that £5.1million went towards paying salaries.

    Friends in high places: U2 singer Bono meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris at the weekend ahead of the UN summit in New York

    Friends in high places: U2 singer Bono meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris at the weekend ahead of the UN summit in New York

    While the organisation’s gameplan has never been direct handouts on the ground, many who admire the Irish rock legend may be surprised by the figures.

    Bono was playing Brussels last night with U2 as the world’s leaders – so many of whom he speaks to directly – were meeting at the UN assembly in New York to assess the progress, or lack of, in reaching the Millennium goals they set.

    The day job: Bono performs with U2 last night at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels

    The day job: Bono performs with U2 last night at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels

    The Post revealed it had received a number of gifts from ONE in the run-up to the event, such as leather notebooks, bags of coffee and water bottles.

    In the UK, the organisation has laid on a series of high-profile, celebrity-supported events since it launched in 2002 to fight poverty in Africa and Aids worldwide.

    In 2009, the group campaigned to have enshrined in British law a commitment to development assistance abroad.

    ONE spokesman Oliver Buston has now defended the way the organisation is run, insisting the money is used for promoting its campaign and raising awareness rather than being given  straight to those who need help.

    He said: ‘We don’t provide programmes on the ground. We’re an advocacy and campaigning organisation.’

    Another spokesman in New York today dismissed the notion of lavish salaries being paid to its 120 members of staff and said the organisation was highly efficient in its raising of awareness.

    ONE said it took no money from the public and that most of its funding came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Action men and women: Staff from Bono's ONE charity

    Action men and women: Staff from Bono’s ONE charity

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1314543/Bonos-ONE-foundation-giving-tiny-percentage-funds-charity.html#ixzz10YgbHGLF

    Bombshell from London

    by Eric S. Margolis

     

    September 13, 2010

    THE London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is the world’s leading think tank for military affairs. It represents the top echelon of defence experts, retired officers and senior military men, spanning the globe from the United States and Britain to China, Russia and India.

    I’ve been an IISS member for over 20 years. IISS’s reports are always authoritative but usually cautious and diplomatic, sometimes dull. However, two weeks ago the IISS issued an explosive report on Afghanistan that is shaking Washington and its Nato allies.

    The report, presided over by the former deputy director of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI-6, says the threat from al-Qaeda and Taliban has been "exaggerated" by the western powers. The US-led mission in Afghanistan has "ballooned" out of all proportion from its original aim of disrupting and defeating al-Qaeda. The US-led war in Afghanistan, says IISS, using uncharacteristically blunt language, is "a long-drawn-out disaster".

    Just recently, CIA chief Leon Panetta admitted there were no more than 50 members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Yet US President Barack Obama has tripled the number of US soldiers there to 120,000 to fight Al Qaeda.

    The IISS report goes on to acknowledge the presence of western troops in Afghanistan is actually fuelling national resistance. I saw the same phenomena during the 1980’s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

    Interestingly, the portion of the report overseen by the former MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service deputy chief, Nigel Inskster, finds little Al Qaeda threat elsewhere, notably in Somalia and Yemen. Yet Washington is beefing up its attacks on both turbulent nations.

    Abandoning its usual discretion, IISS said it was issuing these warnings because the deepening war in Afghanistan was threatening the west’s security interests by distracting its leaders from the world financial crisis and Iran, and burning through scarce funds needed elsewhere.

    The IISS’s findings are a direct challenge to Obama, Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, and other US allies with troops in Afghanistan. This report undermines their rational used to sustain the increasingly unpopular conflict. It will certainly convince sceptics that the real reason for occupation of Afghanistan has to do with oil, excluding China from the region, and keeping watch on nuclear-armed Pakistan.

    The report also goes on to propose an exit strategy from the Afghan War. Western occupation troops, IISS proposes, should be sharply reduced and confined to Kabul and northern Afghanistan, which is mostly ethnic Tajik and Uzbek.

    Southern Afghanistan – Taliban country – should be vacated by Western forces and left alone. Taliban would be allowed to govern its own half of the nation until some sort of loose, decentralised federal system can be implemented. This was, in fact, pretty much the way Afghanistan operated before the 1979 Soviet invasion.

    Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is turning against the increasingly wobbly western occupation forces. The US-installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, openly prepares for direct peace talks with Taliban and its allies – in spite of intense opposition from the US, Britain and Canada.

    Pro-government Afghan forces are increasingly demoralised. Only the Tajik and Uzbek militias, and Afghan Communist Party, both supported by India, Russia and Iran, want to keep fighting the Pashtun Taliban.

    Taliban leader Mullah Omar last week proclaimed the western occupiers were rapidly losing the war. He may well be correct. Nothing is going right for the US-backed Kabul regime or its western defenders. Even the much-ballyhooed US offensive at Marjah, designed to smash Taliban resistance, was an embarrassing fiasco. Civilian casualties from US bombing continue to mount.

    Europeans are fed up with the Afghan war. Polls report 60% of Americans think the war not worth fighting.

    The IISS bombshell comes on the heels of the most dramatic part of the British Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the invasion of Iraq. Baroness Manningham-Buller the former head of Britain’s domestic security service, MI-5, testified that the Iraq War was generated by a farrago of lies and faked evidence from the Blair government. What we call "terrorism" is largely caused by the western invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, she testified.

    The truth about Iraq and Afghanistan is finally emerging.

    Afghanistan may again prove to be "the graveyard of empires".

    Eric S. Margolis is a contributing editor to the Toronto Sun chain of newspapers, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia.
    Comments:
    letters@thesundaily.com

    What Is A Suitable Wedding Present?

    As the poster-child for bad wedding etiquette I have found myself, once again, in the dreaded “wedding gift dilemma”. 

    What do you get the “happy” couple on the blessed day?  A crock pot?  A new car?  Cash? 

    What is the correct gift and exactly how is this vital decision arrived at logically and practically?

    I have decided that the best course of action is to base the gift on the characteristics of the couple themselves.

    Key points of consideration in this case;

    • Both are government employees
    • Both are in their first marriage “experience”
    • The marriage is viewed as a necessary prerequisite for children
    • They have a dog
    • The gender roles of the individuals are reversed in the relationship
    • They completely coincidentally and accidentally bought my first house

    To move the process forward, gifts for each individual characteristic should be assessed;

    • Government Employees
      • Ideal Gift – Nothing.. They are already spoiled.
      • Practical Gift – Crock Pot
    • First marriage “Experience”
      • Ideal Gift – “Nerf” kitchenware and other “throw-able” household objects
      • Practical Gift – Crock Pot
    • Marriage As Child Prerequisite
      • Ideal Gift – Gift Certificate For Vasectomy
      • Practical Gift – Crock Pot (full of condoms)
    • Dog
      • Ideal Gift – A cat
      • Practical Gift – A leash (no symbolism here! J).. maybe in a Crock Pot
    • Reversed Gender Roles
      • Ideal Gift – Interchangeable Testicles
      • Practical Gift – A “Strap-On” Penis (of dimensions comfortable for whomever decides to play the female)
    • Own My First House
      • Ideal Gift – Several sticks of dynamite
      • Practical Gift – A Crock Pot full of oily rags and a lighter 

    Based on the preceding sound and reasonable assessment, it would make sense that a Crock Pot would be the best compromise and the ideal gift for the couple.

    Whew!  Logic and reason to the rescue again! 

    … I’ll just give them $50 bucks…. so they can pick out their own Crock Pot!