Weekly News Archive
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MONDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2014
- no news edition -
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 25, 2014
- no news edition -
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 26, 2014
Assad's army hits border areas as U.S., Israel, Jordan enlarge South Syrian foothold
The Jordanian government Sunday, February 23 vehemently denied reports that Syrian rebels were undergoing training by American and its own military instructors and being sent back to fight government forces. According to US intelligence sources, those training camps have been turning out 250 rebel fighters per course and some 1,000 trainees all told are already in action on Syria’s battlefields. The Syrian government journal Tishrin has repeatedly warned Jordan that it is “playing with fire.”
On February 18, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, quite openly visited injured Syrians at an IDF military field hospital on the Golan. They chatted with wounded rebel soldiers. But on the quiet, our sources report that they took a good look at Quneitra (pop: 10,000), which is located close to Israeli lines on the Syrian side of the enclave.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that a new Syrian rebel command center has been set up there, with the help of the US, Jordan and Israel. The CIA is investing great effort into restoring the combat capabilities of the disbanded Free Syrian Army and incorporating splinter militias likewise opposed to radical Islamist groups in a revived rebel fighting force under the command of Brigadier General Abdul-Illah al-Bashir
Based in the tiny Golan town of Quneitra, he has been given the grand title of “Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.”
General al-Bashir defected from the Syrian army in 2012. His main qualification for the new job is his membership of the Syrian Bedouin al Nuaim tribe, which ranges through the Golan and southern Syria. When he defected, he was followed by army officers who are fellow tribesmen.
The rebel force shaping up in Quneitra therefore consists of many indigenous fighters and a large component of local al Nuaim tribesmen.
It is more likely than not that the new pro-American Syrian rebel force mustered under Israel’s nose is also guaranteed Israeli military insurance against a surprise attack or any hostile attempts to wipe it out. It stands to reason that this function was closely examined during the visit Israeli leaders paid to the Golan last week and is also the subject of intensive talks between Jerusalem and Washington.
But meanwhile Syrian President Bashar Assad is not standing idle.
Exactly a week ago, Saturday night, February 15, the Syrian army ambushed a group of trained Syrian rebels as they crossed in from Jordan. Middle East sources reported that many were killed and others took to their heels and fled.
In the last two days, the Syrian army has moved in for an offensive on the environs of Quneitra to corner the new rebel command center. Two outlying villages, Rasm al-Hour and Rasm al-Sad, fell into the hands of government forces.
Clearly, the US-Israeli-Jordanian effort to establish a rebel-controlled border strip across the Syrian border will not be a cake walk.
Furthermore, a [car bomb] which exploded Sunday at the town of Atmeh on the Syrian-Iraqi border targeted a rebel-run military field hospital. At least nine people were killed.
This was another message from Damascus – this one picked up in Jerusalem - that the field hospital set up on the Golan for injured Syrians is also in the sights of the Syrian army. [no further content, emphasis added]
Source: debka.com LINK
Note: see these related stories:
Report: New FSA Commander Trained In Israel LINK
Earlier story: US And Israeli Buffer Zones Under Syrian Rebel Control Designed To Contain Al Qaeda Advances (1-28-14) - Mostly local militias are assigned with manning two security buffer zones taking shape in southern Syria and warding off attempts by al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) to reach Jordanian and Israeli borders ... The main thrust of this American plan is to create security zones for sealing those borders against both Bashar Assad’s army and the various Islamist militias including al Qaeda, by means of local anti-Islamist rebel groups provided with arms, funding and logistical aid allotted respectively by the US, Israel and Jordan LINK
Syrian-Lebanese border partly erased by hectic war traffic ... Israeli air strike Monday mostly inside Syria
According to Middle East sources, Israel’s air strikes Monday, February 24, were far more limited in scope than presented – no more than one or two warplanes which aimed four rockets at a single target, an SS-21 surface missile launcher on the Syrian side. Four Hizballah operatives were killed.
The hectic traffic of arms, men and smuggling networks between Syria and Lebanon, run by Hizballah and the Syrian military, has virtually obliterated large sections of the border between the two countries. A broad military zone has taken its place, which is characterized by lofty peaks 1,600 meters high, deep gulches and narrow winding roads through wild vegetation. Traffic moving along those roads is hard to identify.
Hizballah arms and missile stores in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley are in free use as strategic reserve supply centers for the units – both Hizballah and Syrian - fighting in border sectors such as the battles in the Qalamoun mountain range.
Brigadier General Ellie Sharvit, commander of the Navy base in Haifa, touched on this situation Tuesday, when he noted that Israel presumes that any weapons systems reaching Syria have also come into the hands of the Lebanese Hizballah. Israel is therefore on a constant state of alert. He mentioned advanced Yakhont [shore-to-sea] missiles as well as top products of Iran’s and Syria’s military industries in this regard.
Brigadier Sharvit was the first IDF officer to confirm DEBKAfile’s reporting in the past year that large quantities of weapons were moving between Syria and Lebanon. This traffic is by now by and large out of the IDF’s control - except for pinpointed strikes. Any attempt to seal the border to this illicit traffic would be unrealistic.
Most Israeli military officials are still trying to present President Bashar Assad as losing the Syrian war and Hizballah’s military capabilities as being eroded.
Contrary to this view, our Middle East sources describe the old Lebanese-Syrian border area as having been transformed into the busy hive of a burgeoning international Shiite legion of mercenaries, who are arriving in ever larger numbers from outside the region. Hizballah has opened European recruiting centers for the Syrian war effort in Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Kosovo. More than 1,000 mercenaries are already undergoing brief instruction at its Beqaa Valley training facilities. After they are familiarized with the weapons in the use of the Syrian army and Hizballah, they are sent across into battle. [no further content]
Source: debka.com LINK
Western sources: Israel Air Force hits SS-21 batteries ... first attack in Syrian war on nuclear-capable missiles
Western military and intelligence sources report that Israeli Air Force strikes in Lebanon and Syria overnight Monday, February 24 came on the heels of the first use in the three-year Syrian war of a Russian-made nuclear-capable Tochka (Point) surface missile - NATO-coded SS-21 Scarab - which carries a 480-kilo warhead with a range of 70 km. These missiles were fired earlier Monday in the Syrian-Hizballah battle for Yabroud. There was no information about the effect of the Israeli strikes.
According to Lebanese sources, however, the target was a cluster of five Hizballah bases or command posts in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. Hizballah casualties were reported.
That was one Lebanese version of the incident. In the absence of independent confirmation or official information, different sources offered a variety of alternative targets.
Some sources named them as missile-launchers fired from Lebanon in support of the Hizballah-Syrian army battle for the strategic town of Yabroud, the last Syrian rebel stronghold in the Qalamoun Mountains just across the Syrian border. This town, 80 kilometers north of Damascus, has held out against two months of vicious combat.
A fourth version claims that the air strikes hit a convoy ferrying weapons from Hizballah’s Lebanese stores into Syria or, alternatively, convoys transporting missiles in the opposite direction, from Syria to Hizballah bases in Lebanon.
The Air Force went into action the day after Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz commented during a visit to the Golan that a close watch is being kept on the movements of Iranian weapons and ammo present in all the troubled sectors of the region. This is of extreme concern to Israel, he said.
As he spoke, Syrian intelligence detonated a large car bomb at a military hospital near the Iraqi border treating Syrian rebel casualties. The attack cost 14 lives, including several wounded men.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources estimate that Israel’s action has left two big question marks:
(1) Was it a one-off, or the start of a series?
(2) Will Hizballah or Syria hit back?
Up until now, any military actions Israel undertook in Syria and Lebanon were cloaked in secrecy and never admitted by the IDF, even when images emerged of the damage caused. This time, there are no images and even Lebanese security sources can’t agree on the targets that were hit.
That is because the shoe is now on the other foot. The Iranian al Qods Brigades chief General Qassem Soleimani has ordered the Israeli air strikes to be kept under tight wraps.
Earlier this month, Soleimani was placed officially in charge of Iran’s military interventions in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian “resistance.”
This was part of the distribution of tasks ordered by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to hold Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) chiefs back from sabotaging Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the six powers. Diplomacy was left in the province of President Hassan Rouhani, but his government was barred from interfering in Iran’s external military operations.
Khamenei’s solution for separating the two rival camps in Tehran has placed Israel and its armed forces face to face for the first time with the Iranian command center directly orchestrating its Arab adversaries.
It is one of the ruthless General Soleimani’s principles never to let any assault on Iran or its interests go unanswered. Israel may therefore expect retaliation for its air strikes – though not necessarily from Syria or Lebanon. [no further content]
Source: debka.com LINK
Note: see also Commentary: Israeli Military Support To Syria Al Qaeda Terrorists, Operating Out Of The Golan Heights LINK
Russian military drill may be lead-in to Crimea occupation and Ukraine split
There is no way that President Vladimir Putin will relinquish Russian control of the Crimean peninsula and its military bases there - or more particularly the big Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. This military stronghold is the key to Russia’s Middle East policy. If it is imperiled, so too are Russia’s military posture in Syria and its strategic understandings with Iran.
This peril raised its head Wednesday, Feb. 26, when pro-Russian and pro-European protesters clashed violently in the Crimean town of Simferopol, the Peninsula’s financial and highway hub.
Most of the protesters against Moscow were members of the minority Tatar community, who had gathered from around the region to demand that Crimea accept Kiev rule.
The majority population is Russian speaking and fought the Tatar demonstrators. However, rival historic claims to this strategic peninsula were in full flight, sparking red lights in Moscow to danger.
The Tatars ruled Crimea in the 18th century. If they manage to expel Russian influence from Simferopol and then the rest of the region, it would be the signal for dozens of the small peoples who make up the Russian Federation to go into separatist mode and raise the flags of mutiny. The Kremlin is therefore bound to nip the Tatar outbreak in the bud to save Russia.
And so, Putin ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to stage an urgent four-day drill to test the combat readiness of Russian military forces in central and western Russia, starting with a high alert for the military and the deployment of some units to shooting ranges.
The exercise will involve Russia’s Baltic and Northern Fleets and its air force.
In a televised statement after a meeting of top military officials in Moscow, defense minister Gen. Shoigu said the forces “must be ready to bomb unfamiliar testing grounds” and be "ready for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation’s military security.”
A senior Russian lawmaker on Tuesday told pro-Russia activists in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula that Moscow will protect them if their lives are in danger.
The Russian president’s military move Wednesday signaled his readiness to send his army into Ukraine and divide the country, if Moscow’s national interests and the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine are at stake. Having broadcast that message, Putin will now wait to see if it picked up by Washington and Brussels for action to restrain the new authorities in Kiev.
But it is no longer certain how much control Western powers have over the former protesters of Kiev, who appear to have taken the bit between their teeth. [no further content]
Source: debka.com LINK
Note: see these related items:
Putin Orders Combat-Readiness Test Of Armed Forces - Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday ordered the combat readiness tested of his armed forces in western and central Russia in the face of clashes between pro-Russian and pro-European protesters in the Crimean Peninsula ... In Kiev, the acting president has ordered the break-up of the riot police which is blamed for brutal violence against protesters LINK
William Engdahl Exposes The Western Agenda In Ukraine (Audio interview) LINK
Paul Craig Roberts Connects The Dots On The Ukrainian Revolution (Audio interview) LINK
Commentary: Democracy Murdered By Protest: Ukraine Falls To Intrigue And Violence - Where does Obama find morons like Susan Rice and Victoria Nuland? ... These two belong in a kindergarten for mentally handicapped children, not in the government of a superpower where their ignorance and arrogance can start World War 3 LINK
Security Council unanimously approves Syria aid access resolution
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council achieved rare unity to act on Syria's civil war on Saturday when Russia and China supported adoption of a resolution to boost aid access in Syria that threatens to take "further steps" in the case of non-compliance. Russia, supported by China, has shielded its ally Syria on the Security Council during the three-year-long war. They had previously vetoed three resolutions that would have condemned Syria's government and threatened it with possible sanctions.
Lithuanian U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, president of the 15-member council for February, described the unanimous approval of the resolution, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, as a "moment of hope" for Syria's people. Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote that Moscow supported the move because "many Russian considerations were borne in mind and as a result the document took on a balanced nature." China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said that Beijing was "gravely concerned" by Syria's worsening humanitarian situation. "We strongly urge all the parties in Syria to implement this resolution in good faith," he said. The initial text was weakened during negotiations with references to the International Criminal Court and targeted sanctions removed. But other contentious points including a demand for an end to barrel bombs, a demand for cross-border access and the naming of besieged areas were included. "This resolution goes further than we have been able to get in three years," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters. "But a resolution is just words, it is implementation that matters and that's what we're starting measuring right now." . . . The resolution asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the council in 30 days on implementation and "expresses its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance." Diplomats say Russia is unlikely to agree to any action if Syria's government was found to be in non-compliance.
But several Western envoys expressed a strong intent to push for Security Council action if the resolution is ignored. "Of course we would have liked to have seen this resolution be even stronger than it is but we are committed to coming back to the council to seek further action if the demands are not met," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters. MORE
Note: see these related stories:
Syria Insists On Its 'Sovereignty' In U.N. Aid Resolution LINK
News Update: Aid Still Stalled Despite U.N. Resolution - Aid workers doubt it has the punch to make Damascus grant access and let stuck convoys deliver vital supplies LINK
Russia warns Saudi Arabia against giving rebels missiles
KIEV -- Russia Tuesday warned Saudi Arabia against supplying Syrian rebels with shoulder-launched [missiles], saying such a move would endanger security across the Middle East and beyond. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it was “deeply concerned” by news reports that Saudi Arabia was planning to buy Pakistani-made shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank systems for armed Syrian rebels based in Jordan. It said that the aim was to alter the balance of power in a planned spring offensive by rebels on the regime of President Bashar Assad. “If this sensitive weapon falls into the hands of extremists and terrorists who have flooded Syria, there is a great probability that in the end it will be used far from the borders of this Middle Eastern country.” Long-existing tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia have intensified further as a result of the Syria conflict, with Moscow standing by Assad but Riyadh offering open support for the rebels. MORE
Note: see also Russia Condemns Rumored Saudi Plans To Arm Syrian Rebels With Anti-Air Missiles LINK
Diplomats: Syria agrees new April target to remove chemicals
BEIRUT / UNITED NATIONS -- Syria has agreed a new timetable to remove its chemical weapons by late April after failing to meet a deadline to ship out the arsenal earlier this month, diplomats said on Wednesday. Under a U.S.-Russian deal reached after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people around Damascus last year, President Bashar al-Assad's government should have handed over 1,300 tonnes of toxic chemicals by February 5 for destruction abroad. But only three cargoes have been shipped out of the country so far, barely 10 percent of the total stockpile declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) overseeing the process along with the United Nations. Amid growing international frustration at the slow pace of progress, Syria last week submitted a new 100-day plan to remove the remaining chemicals, which would have set a target of late May or early June for completion. But the OPCW said the work could be done quicker, despite fighting between Assad's forces and rebels seeking his overthrow. Diplomats said the latest timetable would see Syria committing to transport most of the remaining chemicals to its Mediterranean port of Latakia by April 13, from where they would be shipped out for destruction. MORE
Israel's army chief: Iran meddles in every sector
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz Sunday accused “Iran of meddling in every sector, handing out ammo and rockets like torches for pyromaniacs.” During a tour of the Golan, Gantz warned that, beneath the surface calm, “turmoil rages night and day on all sectors" and "the IDF has adapted itself to the constant changes in all the various sectors.” [no further content] LINK
Report: Turkey Financing Top Global Terror Groups
Turkey becoming world’s leading terrorism finance hub
Turkey has become a principal financial hub for terrorists under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has helped Iran skirt sanctions, supported jihadi groups in Syria, and provided financial backing to Hamas, according to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Turkey, a key U.S. ally, “has turned a blind eye” to terror financing and is potentially on the verge of crossing the line to becoming an official state sponsor of terrorism, according to the Friday report, which cites the Erdogan government’s close ties to some of the world’s top terror organizations and operatives . . . As Turkey’s support for terrorism expands, the Obama administration has remained silent out of fear of offending Erdogan, whom the White House considers a strategic asset, according to the report authored by FDD’s Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. MORE
Pentagon plans to shrink U.S. Army to pre-WWII level
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon plans to scale back the US Army by more than an eighth to its lowest level since before World War II, signalling a shift after more than a decade of ground wars. Saying it was time to "reset" for a new era, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended shrinking American forces from 520,000 active duty troops to between 440,000 and 450,000. In a speech outlining the proposed defence budget, he said Monday that after Iraq and Afghanistan, US military leaders no longer plan to "conduct long and large stability operations." If approved by Congress, the Pentagon move would reduce the army to its lowest manning levels since 1940, before the American military dramatically expanded after entering World War II. The proposed 13 per cent reduction in the army would be carried out by 2017, a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. The spending plan is the first to "fully reflect" a transition away from a war footing that has been in place for 13 years, Hagel said at a press conference . . . The smaller force would entail some "added risk" but it would still be able to defeat an adversary in one region while also "supporting" air and naval operations in another, [Hagel] said. The Pentagon for years had planned to ensure the army could fight two major wars at the same time but that doctrine has been abandoned. Even under the planned reductions, the US Army will remain one of the largest in the world and the American military's budget still dwarfs other countries' defence spending. MORE
Supreme Court ruling expands police authority in home searches
WASHINGTON -- Police officers may enter and search a home without a warrant as long as one occupant consents, even if another resident has previously objected, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a Los Angeles case. The 6-3 ruling, triggered by a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) arrest in 2009, gives authorities more leeway to search homes without obtaining a warrant, even when there is no emergency. The majority, led by Justice Samuel Alito, said police need not take the time to get a magistrate's approval before entering a home in such cases. But dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned that the decision would erode protections against warrantless home searches. The court had previously held that such protections were at the "very core" of the 4th Amendment and its ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The case began when LAPD officers responded to reports of a street robbery near Venice Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. They pursued a suspect to an apartment building, heard shouting inside a unit and knocked on the door. Roxanne Rojas opened the door, but her boyfriend, Walter Fernandez, told officers they could not enter without a warrant. "You don't have any right to come in here. I know my rights," Fernandez shouted from inside the apartment, according to court records. Fernandez was arrested in connection with the street robbery and taken away. An hour later, police returned and searched his apartment, this time with Rojas' consent. They found a shotgun and gang-related material. In Tuesday's decision, the high court said Fernandez did not have the right to prevent the search of his apartment once he was gone and Rojas had consented. In the past, the court has frowned upon most searches of residences except in the case of an emergency or if the police had a warrant from a judge. But Alito said police were free to search when they get the consent of the only occupant on site. MORE
Record radiation detected at New Mexico waste site after nuclear alert
The highest ever levels of radiation have been detected at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository. The latest readings come hot on the heels of a radiation leak that triggered a lockdown of the entire facility at the beginning of the week. Scientists monitoring the area around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, picked up trace elements of radioactive materials in the air. Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center said quoted by AP the readings of americium and plutonium were the highest ever detected at the disposal site. However, radiation levels are still a long way from breaching Environmental Protection Agency safety guidelines. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is one of the world’s three deep repositories for nuclear waste left over from the production and testing of atomic weapons. It buries the waste over 600 meters underground in tunnels hewn out of salt beds. Just four days ago an out-of-the-ordinary radiation spike was recorded at the facility which caused plant managers to suspend all operations. Personnel at the facility discovered the source of the radiation was a leak inside one of the salt tunnels where radioactive material is buried. Air filters were activated at the plant as a precaution and workers were barred from entering the facility. Officials stated that there had been no adverse effects on the health of any of the staff and radiation had not escaped to the surface. “Officials at WIPP continue to monitor the situation,” spokeswoman Deb Gill said to the LA Times back on Monday. “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment.” However, she did say that officials know very little about the extent of the problem or how to solve it. (2-20-14) MORE
Note: see these related stories:
More Airborne Radiation Confirmed Near New Mexico Nuclear Site LINK
USAF Base Orders 1,200 Radiation Suits In New Mexico LINK
U.S. Air Force reveals 'neighborhood watch' spy satellite program
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA (Reuters) -- The United States plans to launch a pair of satellites to keep tabs on spacecraft from other countries orbiting 22,300 miles above the planet, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said. The previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking thousands of pieces of debris so orbital collisions can be avoided, General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday. He called it a "neighborhood watch program" that will provide a more detailed perspective on space activities. He said the satellites, scheduled to be launched this year, also will be used to ferret out potential threats from other spacecraft. The program "will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes," Shelton said in the speech, which also was posted on the Air Force Association's website. The two-satellite network, built by Orbital Sciences Corp will drift around the orbital corridor housing much of the world's communications satellites and other spacecraft. MORE
5 California Children Infected by Polio-Like Illness
Over a one-year period, five children in California developed a polio-like illness that caused severe weakness or paralysis in their arms and legs, a new case study reports. In two of the children, their symptoms have now been linked with an extremely rare virus called enterovirus-68. Like the poliovirus, which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 1979 thanks to the polio vaccine, strains of enterovirus in rare cases can invade and injure the spine. These are the first reported cases of polio-like symptoms being caused by enterovirus in the United States. During the last decade, outbreaks of polio-like symptoms have been reported in children in Asia and Australia, and these infections have been associated with newly identified strains of enterovirus. "We think one reason why these cases may have occurred in California is that we are at the western-most part of the United States, so we may have had a higher circulation of the virus that was originally identified in Asia," said Dr. Emmanuelle Waubant, co-author of the case report and a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center . . . "It's very likely that the vast majority of people infected with enterovirus will be fine," Waubant said. Most never develop neurological problems because the virus usually stays in the respiratory tract, where it may cause flu-like symptoms. In only a very small percentage of people, the virus spreads to the spinal cord and damages nerve cells, resulting in weakness in one or more limbs, or paralysis, Waubant said . . . All five kids had been previously vaccinated against polio. MORE
Note: see also News Update: 20 Cases Of Polio-Like Illness Across California LINK
New Avenger jet-powered drone will offer unprecedented capabilities
A jet-powered drone with a range of 1,800 miles from the nearest base is now operational, according to its maker, weapons contractor General Atomics. The Avenger has the ability to fly up to 500 miles per hour at as much as 50,000 feet for up to 18 hours. The long-range, high-speed drone – based on General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drone – will offer unprecedented endurance to surveillance or lethal strike missions . . . Compared to its earlier version, the drone’s fuselage has been extended by four feet in order to carry larger loads and to accommodate an increased fuel capacity. The Avenger can carry as much as 3,500 pounds internally; its 66-foot (20.12 meters) wingspan can carry weapons as large as 2,000 pounds, such as Joint Direct Attack Munition. JDAM is a “guidance kit” attached to drones “that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided ‘smart’ weapons,” according to weapons maker Boeing. MORE
Abomination Alert: Foes of California's 'Transgender Rights' Law Fall Short of Signatures Needed for Repeal Attempt
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Opponents of a new California law that provides transgender students certain rights in public schools have failed to gather enough voter signatures to place a referendum to repeal the law on the November ballot. At least 504,760 signatures were required to force a public vote on the statute approved by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year. The law's opponents submitted 619,387, but county election officers determined that just 487,484 of them were valid, according to a final count posted on the secretary of state's website Monday. The law took effect January 1. It guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use the school restrooms and to participate in the sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their school records. The coalition of religious conservative groups behind the repeal effort said it violates the privacy of youngsters who may be uncomfortable sharing facilities with classmates of the opposite biological sex. The law's supporters said it is needed to provide statewide consistency and to improve the school experiences of young people who decide to live by a gender different from the one they had at birth. MORE
Imprisoned pastor gets medical care ... Still needs prayer (Iran)
There is some good news to report concerning a Christian imprisoned in Iran. Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries tells One News Now that Benham Irani was arrested for converting from Islam to Christianity in May 2011, and he could have received the death penalty for that. "They sentenced him to a five-year prison term for crimes against national security, but there's the fear there that one day … they'll pursue the death penalty for him," DeMars laments. Irani was in solitary confinement for several weeks, then transferred to the general prison population, "and he was allowed to be beaten up on a consistent basis, almost daily, for several months," the ministry spokesman continues. He was seriously injured, developed stomach ulcers and intestinal bleeding, and even passed out on one occasion. And despite being promised medical attention, he never received it because he is Christian. "The good news we've received," DeMars reports, "is that Pastor Benham was able to be transferred to the hospital and received the surgery that he needed, and it was a successful surgery, and he was recovering in the hospital." Though he is now back in prison, the pastor's hospital stay allowed him to visit with his family and some of his house church members. DeMars is asking for continued prayer. [no further content] LINK
Missionary's wife knows her imprisoned husband is in God's hands (North Korea)
While information regarding the arrest of an Australian missionary slowly emerges from North Korea, a Christian human rights organization has made contact with the prisoner's wife. Ryan Morgan of International Christian Concern (ICC) tells OneNewsNow 75-year-old John Short has been in custody since he was detained Sunday, February 16. "Some media resources are reporting that he may face the same charges that Kenneth Bae, an American citizen, is facing in North Korea right now, which is 15 years of hard labor," Morgan reports. "But we are pretty sure that this had to do with the fact that John was a missionary and was taking … Christian literature into the country." And following the arrest, Morgan phoned Short's wife, Karen, who was exhausted after media interviews. "But she's also really unshaken, honestly," the ICC spokesman shares. "[She] and John have been missionaries for 40 years. They genuinely love the Chinese people and the North Koreans. So, they really believe he's in God's hands, and they're praying for his safety. And … I think she's actually holding up quite well despite the circumstances." He notes that the Shorts knew of the risk involved when John decided to go to North Korea. "I also think his arrest may have something to do with wider issues - not just the fact that John was carrying religious materials in there," Morgan poses. "So this could be a move by North Korea to kind of affect larger geopolitical issues.” ICC is calling for international prayer. [no further content] LINK
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Commentary: OBAMA$CARE: THE TERRIFYING CONSEQUENCES TO HEALTHCARE (Tom DeWeese)
In a progressive secular society, ethics are not based on God or morality or individual wants and needs, but on the “common good” of the state. Concludes Dr. Conroy, “Obamacare is not about medical care but rather social and government control of the population.”
Over the past decade or more, government rules have been slowly creeping into healthcare decisions, making it more and more difficult for doctors to care for their patients. Obamacare, and its avalanche of rules and regulations; the reporting required of every doctor - every step of the way in treatment - can only result in short cuts and less care in the medical procedures. The result will be a bureaucratic takeover of the system, as unqualified political hacks will make life and death decisions for patients. It will lead to the end of innovation and advancement of medical treatments. Free thinkers seeking new ways will be swallowed whole by the bureaucratic system. The victim will be the American healthcare system. Quality doctors will quit, and mediocrity will rule the system, just like in every other socialist health care system from England to Canada. Welcome to the coming Utopia of Obamacare.
The Supreme Court called Obamacare a tax. And that is exactly what it is. It is not a healthcare system. It is simply another way to redistribute individual American’s wealth into the bottomless pit of government control. The health of the patient is not even in the equation. [emphasis added]
Source: newswithviews.com MORE
'Brave New World' Alert:
Report: Dad May Join Two Moms for Disease-Free Designer Babies (Elizabeth Lopatto)
A new technology aimed at eliminating genetic disease in newborns would combine the DNA of three people, instead of just two, to create a child, potentially redrawing ethical lines for designer babies.
The process works by replacing potentially variant DNA in the unfertilized eggs of a hopeful mother with disease-free genes from a donor. U.S. regulators today will begin weighing whether the procedure, used only in monkeys so far, is safe enough to be tested in humans.
Because the process would change only a small, specific part of [the] genetic code, scientists say a baby would largely retain the physical characteristics of the parents. Still, DNA from all three - mother, father and donor - would remain with the child throughout a lifetime, opening questions about long-term effects for this generation, and potentially the next. Ethicists worry that allowing pre-birth gene manipulation may one day lead to build-to-order designer babies.
“Once you make this change, if a female arises from the process and goes on to have children, that change is passed on, so it’s forever,” Phil Yeske, chief science officer of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, said by telephone. “That’s uncharted territory; we just don’t know what it means. Permanent change of the human germline has never been done before, and we don’t know what will happen in future generations.”
The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled today and tomorrow to explore the issue at a meeting, with doctors and researchers scheduled to talk. The FDA will then decide whether to allow scientists at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, who engineered the approach, to move their testing program from macaque monkeys to woman.
Potentially, the procedure may cut off mitochondrial diseases that are passed down through females and occur in about 1 in 4,000 people. One example is Melas syndrome, which causes a person to have continuing small strokes that damage their brains, leading to vision loss, problems with movement, dementia and death, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“What the FDA needs to think about is that this isn’t a procedure to repair mitochondrial disease,” said Vamsi Mootha, a professor of systems biology and medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston who studies mitochondrial disorders. “It’s designed to prevent disease. It’s designed to offer a woman who’s a carrier for disease more options.” . . . .
In early research, four macaque monkeys were born from the procedure, according to a 2009 report by the Oregon researchers in the journal Nature. They were reported as healthy at age 3.
In October 2012, Nature published reports that the technique had also been used in human egg cells. The resulting embryos were allowed to develop to the blastocyst stage, which usually occurs about five days after fertilization.
About half of the egg cells displayed normal development, the scientists found. Though the procedure is legal in the laboratory, the embryos that result from it can’t be implanted in women without the FDA’s consent, leading to today’s session.
There are two types of DNA: nuclear, which is handed down by both parents, and mitochondria, which only comes from the mother. The technology replaces a donor’s nuclear DNA, which determines things like hair color and intelligence, with the same material from the prospective mother, leaving the healthy mitochondria from the donor in place.
The new lab-made egg is then fertilized with the father’s sperm in vitro and implanted in the mother’s womb.
This isn’t the first time that scientists have attempted to disrupt the actions of mitochondria DNA to help fight disease, or the first time the FDA has considered the issue.
From 1997 to 2003, about 30 children worldwide were born using a method that injected donor mitochondria DNA into eggs after they were fertilized. The first baby born with this technique was reported in 1997. In 2003, though, the FDA told fertility clinics that genetically manipulated embryos were considered a biological product, and subject to regulation, essentially halting the technique in humans.
The lives of those children should be thoroughly investigated before the new procedure is cleared for use in a human trial, said Sheldon Krimsky, a professor of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning at Tufts University in Boston.
In the 1982 position paper, “Splicing Life,” the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research made a distinction between gene therapy that takes place after someone is born compared with manipulation that occurs before, altering the body’s genome.
There was broad consensus that the latter, called germ-line engineering, shouldn’t be pursued, said Krimsky, who was one of the consultants for the paper. That changed “starting in the late 1990s, when people started whittling away at that distinction,” he said in a telephone interview.
“You’re altering the genome of an unborn child, someone who can’t make a judgment about whether they want to be genetically modified,” Krimsky said by telephone. “What will be next, once you allow this?”
Scientists also are concerned that the procedure may not be safe, according to a paper in September 2013 in the journal Science, whose lead author was evolutionary biologist Klaus Reinhardt at the University of Tuebingen in Germany.
Reinhardt’s paper noted that male mice bred from this technique sometimes had altered breathing, as well as reduced learning and exploring capabilities, according to earlier research. Female mice weren’t tested.
The research in mice suggests that the replacement technique may destroy some lines of communication between mitochondria and the cell’s transplanted nucleus, Reinhardt’s editorial said. Though the macaque monkeys don’t show the same problems, there may be long-term issues from the DNA replacement, he wrote.
Source: bloomberg.com MORE
Commentary: BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS (Coach Dave Daubenmire)
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” [Matthew: 5:9]
. . . . Peacemaker: A person who establishes peace.
“Peacemaking” speaks of authority. It conjures up images of a power/authority who comes and establishes peace where previously there had been conflict, danger, and confusion. Peacemakers bring the hammer down. They “establish justice.” All peace emanates from justice . . . .
According to Jesus, peacemakers are a blessing. In fact, they will be recognized as the children of God.
But please notice what it does not say. Blessed are the peacekeepers. A peacekeeper and a peacemaker are not the same thing. Yet we act as if they were the same. Permit me to explain.
I grew up as one of five children. Back in the good ole days mothers had the luxury of staying home with their children. My father was a factory worker and he earned enough for us to live a solid middle-class lifestyle. But my Mom had to hold the home front down while Dad earned the bacon.
My sister Jane was the first-born, followed by four rambunctious boys who constantly fought to establish our position in the pecking order. Our dear mother spent most of her time refereeing the skirmishes that my brothers and I were constantly engaging in. When Mom had run out of patience, as well as solutions, she always dropped the bomb that made us all shiver with fright.
“You wait until your father gets home.” I still nearly wet my pants just replaying the sound in my head.
You see, my Mom was a peacekeeper. It was her job to represent the true authority of the family, my father. She was his representative to an unruly family. We had been warned by our father that Mom was the boss in his absence . . . .
Isn't it interesting ... Jesus said that the peacemakers ... those who carried the authority of God ... would be recognized by the world as children of God.
The dictionary calls a peacekeeper “a person who maintains or restores peace.” Do you see it? A peacemaker establishes peace. A peacekeeper merely maintains it . . . .
Compromise is deadly . . . Compromise is a yielding of God-granted authority. Compromise is peacekeeping. Blessed are the peacemakers ... they will be recognized as children who move under the authority of God.
So where does your church stand? Does your church actively engage in ending of abortion? Does your pastor exercise his God-ordained authority to guarantee justice for the unborn? Doe he actively oppose the homosexual agenda in your local public school? Does he openly and actively oppose the usurpation of God's authority by the tyrannical beast of government? . . . .
The church has fallen to political correctness. It is full of compromise. The authority granted to His church has not been stolen, it has been surrendered. To raise up and fight would bring a great deal of conflict to the church.
And that is a no no. The church is no longer a peacemaker, it has become a peacekeeper ... that is why the world no longer recognizes the church as the children of God ... nor His Word as the ultimate authority in the world.
We are engaged in a great Spiritual war. There is no neutral ground. Can you name one compromise the Devil has made, or is it the “children of God”, in the spirit of compromise, who have yielded to peacekeeping.
Is homosexuality getting more prevalent and aggressive? Is baby-murder becoming more accessible? Is religious freedom on the rise or on the wane? Has the access to pornography been diminished by any of the efforts of the church? Are our political leaders becoming more or less brazen in their lying?
Compromise ... the desire to keep peace ... is destroying the Christian foundation of this nation.
"Do not think that I came to bring peace, but a sword,” Jesus instructed us.
Blessed are the peacemakers ... the unyielding ... the uncompromising ... the salt of the earth.
It is time for us to come out of the closet and be recognized as the “children of God.”
I have to wonder if the Lord even recognizes his children anymore ...
Source: newswithviews.com MORE
Note: Daily and weekly archives of the daily news editions are available. See the links at the bottom of this page.
ADDITIONAL NEWS & ANALYSIS
IRS Warns: Obama$care Tax Must Be Paid with Tax Return LINK
Agency employs Orwellian term “Shared Responsibility Payment” to describe Obamacare individual mandate tax
[National Association of Manufacturers]: Obama$care 'Will Hurt Manufacturers and Their Employees' LINK
"If we don’t do something to fix the law, between six and seven million fewer American workers will have employer-sponsored coverage over the next 10 years"
NSA watchdog: Snowden should have come to me [?!] LINK
[analysis]: U.S. Adopts Israeli Demand to Bring Iran's Missiles Into Nuclear Talks LINK
The Obama administration may be seeking to take political credit for a hard line on Iranian missiles in the knowledge that it will not be able to get a consensus for that negotiating position among the group of six powers negotiating with Iran
Egypt government resigns ahead of presidential poll LINK
Official: Iran Has Studied Israeli Strike Tactics LINK
Second day of anti-corruption protests in Turkey LINK
Abomination Alert: Holder Invites State Attorneys General to Do As He Did: Refuse to Defend Laws Banning [Sodomy-Based] Marriage LINK
He said that state laws banning [sodomy-based] marriage do not “advance the values that once led our forebears to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity”
Holder Blasted For Encouraging State Attorneys General to Ignore Same-Sex Marriage Bans LINK
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox pointed out that “what General Holder is asking state attorneys general to do is accept a gratuitously offered non-binding legal opinion on an issue that has not been decided by a national court of competent jurisdiction at this time ... The approach is as inappropriate, as it is unprecedented”
Newark Airport terminal lights tied to security system LINK
The lights are fitted with computer chips, cameras, sensors and wi-fi antennas ... They collect data that can help detect suspicious activity or aid in police investigations
[analysis]: U.S. 'Special Plans': A History of Deception and Perception Management LINK
[analysis]: China Starts To Make A Power Move Against The U.S. Dollar LINK
Planned food safety rules rile organic farmers LINK
Local growers are discovering that proposed FDA regulations would curtail many common techniques, such as using house-made fertilizers and irrigating from creeks
[analysis]: Arizona Bill Does Not Give Businesses License to Discriminate Against [homosexuals] LINK
Under current Arizona law, if a business wanted to discriminate against [homosexuals], they would not need this bill to be passed to do so ... It is not currently illegal for a business to deny service to someone because they are [homosexual] ... Some cities in Arizona have ordinances against it but there is no state law against it ... If business owners in Arizona wanted to deny service to [homosexuals], they could do so in most of the state under current law
Pressure mounts on Arizona governor to veto bill dubbed [anti-homosexual] LINK
News Update: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoes Senate Bill 1062 (Video) LINK
Other states copy Arizona SB 1062 LINK
Missouri, Georgia, Kansas
India's [homosexual] community scrambling after court decision recriminalises homosexuality LINK
Uganda Could Lose U.S. Aid, Face Sanctions Over Its Homosexuality Law LINK
A review of the U.S. relationship with Uganda in response to newly enacted anti-homosexuality legislation could lead to options such as cutting aid or imposing sanctions, a State Department spokeswoman indicated on Monday
HEALTH HIGHLIGHTS: Join the Sound Body Yahoo group (part of the Christian Media ministry) to receive regular health eblasts LINK
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Matthew: 5:9 (KJV)
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 27, 2014
- no news edition -
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 28, 2014
- no news edition -
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Worldwatch was edited this week by Editor Robert Ellis with help from Claire Mason.