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"Someone" Has Just Withdrawn 321,500 oz. or 40% of JPMorgan's Gold Holdings...Again!

Via: www.zerohedge.com/news/2014...-over-year

Fastest Pace of Withdrawals from JPM's Gold Vault in over a Year

While JPM's eligible gold holdings are nowhere near the record lows hit in the summer of 2013, when they dropped to a tiny 46K ounces, sparking concerns of a potential deliverable default, yesterday according to the daily CME gold depository report, JPM saw a whopping 321,500 ounces, or about 10 tons of gold, withdrawn. This was the biggest outflow since the August 5 rebalance when nearly 1.5 million ounces were withdrawn and added, and was the biggest, and is tied with two identical 321,500 oz outflows recorded in early January. As of yesterday, JPM's eligible gold tumbled by 40% in one day, declining to 485.K ounces from over 800K the day before: the lowest eligible gold inventory since almost exactly a year ago.

What is perhaps more notable, is that the recent outflows of eligible golds are taking place at the same time as there has been a significant reduction in the NAV/gold holdings of the GLD ETF. A question thus arises once again: where is the gold being withdrawn to and who is doing these not insubstantial withdrawals.

Finally, it bears pointing out that since September 1, eligible gold at JPM's vault has declined from 1.5 million ounces to under 500K: a decline of over 1 million ounces in just over a month, and matching the fastest decline on record for the JPM vault recorded in early 2013.

It would appear that someone is certainly in a rush to "withdraw" as much eligible gold as possible at a time when gold has been stubbornly trading in the $1200/ounce range, and when significant moves of either physical or paper gold, appear to not have much of an impact on gold price.

Will JPM's gold vault be further emptied today? We will know the answer in just about 3 hours.
Fri, October 24, 2014 - 11:16 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Ebola Bites the Big Apple!

Via: rt.com/usa/198732-new...ebola-symptoms/

Doctor in New York tests positive for Ebola after Guinea aid work

Published time: October 23, 2014 21:28
Edited time: October 24, 2014 04:54

A healthcare worker who recently returned from Ebola-stricken Guinea where he treated patients has been rushed to a New York City hospital with a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. Tests returned “preliminary positive results” for Ebola.

The doctor suffering symptoms of the disease was rushed to hospital on Thursday afternoon with “all necessary precautions”, according to the New York City Department of Health. He was identified as Dr. Craig Spencer who works with Doctors Without Borders.

Preliminary test results show that the patient is positive for the Ebola virus. The federal Centers for Disease Control will conduct further tests to confirm the initial result.

“Testing confirmed that a patient here in New York City had tested positive for Ebola,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told a press conference.

"We have been preparing for months for Ebola threat," he said, adding that “every hospital in the city is prepared” in the event of more patients testing positive, while authorities are prepared to quarantine patient's contacts as necessary.

"We have had a full coordinating effort that has been working literally night and day," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his turn, adding that 5,000 healthcare workers were being drilled on Ebola treatment.

Cuomo reassured New Yorkers that the “patient was exposed to a relatively few people” all of whom authorities believe have already been located. According to Cuomo “only five people” had been in contact with the patient within the “relevant” period of time.

One of the four detected contacts under supervision has opted to be quarantined in a hospital, while three others decided to stay under supervision at their homes, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Mary Bassett said, not revealing their identities. Healthcare workers are using full protective gear at Bellevue Hospital, said Bassett, and no workers have opted out of treating Ebola patients.

“The first actual symptoms the patient displayed were today [Thursday],” Bassett added. “The patient is presently hospitalized in isolation.”

The Ebola patient arrived at John F. Kennedy International airport on October 17 and went through all the ramped-up screening procedures, triggering no alert, because he “did not have a fever or other symptoms of illness," the CDC added in a statement.

When the patient left Guinea earlier this month - and when he arrived in the United States - he was well with no symptoms. Although he did feel fatigue on October 21, he did not report a fever until Thursday.

"We are sending an additional CDC Ebola response team [to NYC], which is in transit now," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden added.

New York City Councilor Mark Levine said earlier that authorities were discussing possible evacuation of the Harlem apartment building where he lived. “Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with [Spencer]," NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Spencer was a medic working in Guinea but has been back in the United State for 10 days. He quarantined himself after developing a high fever, said the Daily News.

“Today, EMS HAZ TAC Units transferred to Bellevue Hospital a patient who presented a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms,” Bellevue Hospital administrators said in a statement. “The patient is a health care worker who returned to the US within the past 21 days from one of the three countries currently facing the outbreak of this virus.”

The statement went on to say the patient was transported in protective equipment, and the hospital along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “has decided to conduct a test for the Ebola virus because of this patient’s recent travel history, pattern of symptoms, and past work.”

“We’re aware of the case and we’re working with the New York City health department,” a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. “We’re consulting with them as they assess the case and any plan to test the patient will be announced by the New York authorities.”

Bellevue Hospital said disease detectives are trying to trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk. His apartment in Hamilton Heights is sealed-off.

City officials said that Spencer acknowledged riding the subway and taking a cab to a Brooklyn bowling alley in the past week, but emphasized that was before he started showing symptoms.

“As a further precaution, beginning today, the Health Department’s team of disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement. “The Health Department staff has established protocols to identify, notify and, if necessary, quarantine any contacts of Ebola cases.”

Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan’s midtown has been designated for the identification and treatment of Ebola patients by the City and State.

Hospital administrators said that “the chances of the average New Yorker contacting Ebola are extremely slim. Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person.”

New York’s John F. Kennedy airport was the first American airport to start conducting screenings of passengers coming from the three countries stricken by the Ebola virus – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Passengers are asked questions about potential exposure to Ebola, and have their temperature taken.
Fri, October 24, 2014 - 11:07 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Was Ebola Accidentally Released from a Bioweapons Lab in West Africa?

As Dr. Boyle told us:

It seems to me that [the Ebola epidemic in West Africa] has U.S. biowarfare programs written all over it.

***
Whatever you want to believe or not believe about ebola, this piece contains a lot of information about biowarfare (some of which you’ve seen previously on Cryptogon). Looking for hair on fire insane activities undertaken by governments? You’ve come to the right place. (from www.cryptogon.com/ )

Via: www.zerohedge.com/news/2014...est-africa

EXCLUSIVE: Was Ebola Accidentally Released from a Bioweapons Lab In West Africa?

Accidents at Germ Labs Have Occurred Worldwide

Nations such as Russia, South Africa and the U.S. have long conducted research into how to make deadly germs even more deadly. And accidents at these research facilities have caused germs to escape, killing people and animals near the facilities.

For example, the Soviet research facility at Sverdlovsk conducted anthrax research during the Cold War. They isolated the most potent strain of anthrax culture and then dried it to produce a fine powder for use as an aerosol. In 1979, an accident at the facility released anthrax, killing 100.

The U.S. has had its share of accidents. USA Today noted in August:

More than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012, government reports obtained by USA TODAY show.

***

In two other incidents, animals were inadvertently infected with contagious diseases that would have posed significant threats to livestock industries if they had spread. One case involved the infection of two animals with hog cholera, a dangerous virus eradicated from the USA in 1978. In another incident, a cow in a disease-free herd next to a research facility studying the bacteria that cause brucellosis, became infected ....

The issue of lab safety and security has come under increased scrutiny by Congress in recent weeks after a series of high-profile lab blunders at prestigious government labs involving anthrax, bird flu and smallpox virus.

***

The new lab incident data indicate mishaps occur regularly at the more than 1,000 labs operated by 324 government, university and private organizations across the country ....

"More than 200 incidents of loss or release of bioweapons agents from U.S. laboratories are reported each year. This works out to more than four per week," said Richard Ebright, a biosafety expert at Rutgers university in New Jersey, who testified before Congress last month at a hearing about CDC's lab mistakes.

The only thing unusual about the CDC's recent anthrax and bird flu lab incidents, Ebright said, is that the public found out about them. "The 2014 CDC anthrax event became known to the public only because the number of persons requiring medical evaluation was too high to conceal," he said.

CDC officials were unavailable for interviews and officials with the select agent program declined to provide additional information. The USDA said in a statement Friday that "all of the information is protected under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002."

Such secrecy is a barrier to improving lab safety ....

Gronvall notes that even with redundant systems in high-security labs, there have been lab incidents resulting in the spread of disease to people and animals outside the labs.

She said a lab accident is considered by many scientists to be the most likely source of the re-emergence in 1977 of an H1N1 flu strain that had disappeared in 1957 because the genetic makeup of the strain hadn't changed as it should have over those decades. A 2009 article in the New England Journal of Medicine noted the 1977 strain was so similar to the one that disappeared that it suggests it had been "preserved" and that the re-emergence was "probably an accidental release from a laboratory source."

***

In 2012, CDC staff published an article in the journal Applied Biosafety on select agent theft, loss and releases from 2004 through 2010, documenting 727 reported incidents, 11 lab-acquired infections and one loss of a specimen in transit among more than 3,400 approved shipments.

The article noted that the number of reports received by CDC likely underestimates the true number of suspected losses and releases.

Indeed, there have been many accidents involving germ research. For example, the New York Times noted in 2005:

In 2002, the discovery of lethal anthrax outside a high-security laboratory at the military's premier biodefense laboratory, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, led to sampling throughout the institute.

And the Los Angeles Times reported in 1988:

The Senate report noted that accidents have occurred in the handling of potentially deadly biological material. Vials of biological warfare agents have been misplaced or spilled, it said, employees have been exposed to deadly toxins and a fire once broke out in the high-containment laboratory of the Army's leading germ warfare facility at Ft. Detrick, Md.

Researchers are creating some very dangerous bugs. The Frederick News Post - an excellent local newspaper for the community surrounding the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick - reported in 2010 that the facility would eventually aerosolize Ebola:

Ludwig said researchers at the facility will likely start out working on vaccines for filoviruses such as Ebola and Marburg, as well as new anthrax vaccines.

***

The facility will have the capability to produce viruses in aerosolized form that would simulate a potential biological attack on the test animals. Ludwig said aerosol is the means of exposure researchers are most concerned with given its implications to battlefield and homeland defense.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist has re-created the 1918 Spanish flu in the lab. The Guardian noted in June:

In an article published last month, [Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health] argued that experiments like Kawaoka's could unleash a catastrophic pandemic if a virus escaped or was intentionally released from a high-security laboratory.

***

Many of the groups that create dangerous viruses to understand their workings are funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Lord May [the former president of the Royal Society and one time chief science adviser to the UK government] said he suspected the NIH supported the work because officials there were "incompetent" and believed the justifications that scientists told them. "This is work that shouldn't be done. It's as simple as that," he said.

***

The study identifies particular mutations that made the virus spread so easily. But that is not much use for surveillance, said Lipsitch, because there are scores of other mutations that could have the same effect.

***

Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said he feared that governments and funding bodies would only take the risks seriously once an accident had happened. "It's madness, folly. It shows profound lack of respect for the collective decision-making process we've always shown in fighting infections. If society, the intelligent layperson, understood what was going on, they would say 'What the F are you doing?'"

Obama Now Claims that He's Shutting Down Domestic Germ Program

The New York Times reported last week that President Obama is so concerned about these accidental releases that he's clamping down on germ research:

Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents, the White House announced Friday that it would temporarily halt all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.

It also encouraged scientists involved in such research on the influenza, SARS and MERS viruses to voluntarily pause their work while its risks were reassessed.

***

The announcement, which was made by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services, did not say how long the moratorium would last. It said a “deliberative process to assess the potential risks and benefits” would begin this month and stretch at least into next year.

The move appeared to be a sudden change of heart by the Obama administration, which last month issued regulations calling for more stringent federal oversight of such research and requiring scientists and universities to disclose that their work might be risky, rather than expecting federal agencies to notice.

***

The moratorium is only on research on influenza virus and the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS.

***

The debate over the wisdom of “gain of function” research erupted in 2011 when the labs of Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, separately announced that they had succeeded in making the lethal H5N1 avian flu easily transmissible between ferrets, which are a model for human susceptibility to flu.

The debate heated up further this year when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted it had suffered laboratory accidents that exposed dozens of workers to anthrax and shipped deadly avian flu virus to another federal lab that had asked for a more benign flu strain.

***

The White House said the moratorium decision had been made “following recent biosafety incidents at federal research facilities.”

***

Many scientists were furious that such work had been permitted and even supported with American tax dollars. But others argued that it was necessary to learn which genetic mutations make viruses more dangerous. If those mutations began appearing naturally as the viruses circulated in animals and people, warnings could be issued and vaccines designed, they said.

***

Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist and bioweapons expert at Rutgers University, argued that the long history of accidental releases of infectious agents from research labs made such work extremely risky and unwise to perform in the first place.

Germs Abroad

The U.S. conducts germ research worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out in the 1988 article:

The Army conducts or contracts for germ warfare work at 120 sites worldwide ....

The National Journal's Global Security Newswire reported in 2011 that such sites include bioweapon germs such as Anthrax and Ebola in Africa:

The Obama administration has requested $260 million in fiscal 2012 funding to bolster protective measures at African research sites that house lethal disease agents, the Examiner reported on Sunday (see GSN, April 14).

The Defense Department funding would be used to safeguard against extremist infiltration facilities in Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere that hold potential biological-weapon agents such as anthrax, Ebola and Rift Valley fever.

The heads of germ research for the Russian and South African governments both say that they intentionally created more lethal forms of deadly germs such as Ebola.

Specifically, the former head of Russia's biological weapons program told PBS:

In the 70s and beginning of 80s the Soviet Union started developing new biological weapons--Marburg infection biological weapon, Ebola infection biological weapon, Machupo infection, [or] Bolivian hemorrhagic biological weapon, and some others.

The head of South Africa's Apartheid-era biological weapons program also worked on weaponizing Ebola. The New Yorker noted in 2011:

Dr. Wouter Basson, and the various apartheid-era clandestine weapons programs he oversaw as leader of Project Coast…

South Africans call him Dr. Death. He is regularly compared by the local press, never very persuasively, to Josef Mengele. . .

***

There were revelations of research into a race-specific bacterial weapon; a project to find ways to sterilize the country’s black population ....

***

Basson’s scientists were working with anthrax, cholera, salmonella, botulinum, thallium, E. coli, ricin, organophosphates, necrotizing fasciitis, hepatitis A, and H.I.V., as well as nerve gases (Sarin, VX) and the Ebola, Marburg, and Rift Valley hemorrhagic-fever viruses. They were producing crude toxins (and some strange delivery systems) for use by the military and police, and they were genetically engineering extremely dangerous new organisms—creating, that is, biological weapons.

And see this.

Dr. Basson alleges that the UK and U.S. helped South Africa with its biowarfare research:

The U.S. has - in the past - intentionally deployed germ warfare abroad. For example, the Senate's Church Committee found that the CIA decided to bump off the heads of Congo and Cuba using lethal germs. And the United States sold anthrax to Saddam Hussein in 1985, for the express purpose of using it against Iran. (CIA files also prove that the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran.)

Top Bioweapons Expert Speaks Out on Ebola

Washington's Blog spoke with one of America's leading experts on the dangers of research into deadly germs, Dr. Francis Boyle.

Dr. Boyle wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

Dr. Boyle served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-1992), and is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

WASHINGTON'S BLOG: You said recently that laboratories in West Africa run by the Centers for Disease Control and Tulane University are doing bioweapons research. What documentary evidence do you have of that?

You mentioned that a map produced by the CDC shows where the laboratories are located on the West Coast of Africa?

DR. FRANCIS BOYLE: Yes. They've got one in Monrovia [the capital of Ebola-stricken Liberia] ... one in Kenema, Sierra Leone [the third largest city in the Ebola-hotzone nation], which was shut down this summer because the government there believed that it was the Tulane vaccines which had set this whole thing off.

And then they have another one in Guinea, where the first case [of Ebola] was reported.

All of these are labs which do this offensive/defensive biowarfare work.

And Fort Detrick's USAMRIID [the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases] has also been over there. So it's clear what's been going on there.

CDC has a long history of doing biowarfare work. I have them doing biowarfare work for the Pentagon in Sierra Leone as early 1988.

WASHINGTON'S BLOG: And how do you know that? Have you seen official documents?

DR. FRANCIS BOYLE: An official government document: the Biological Defense Research Program, May 1988. I analyzed it in my book, Biowarfare and Terrorism.

It's clear that [the U.S. bioweapons researchers] were using Liberia to try to circumvent the Biological Weapons Convention. And CDC - for years - has been up to its eyeballs in biowarfare work.

They always try to justify the development of offensive biological weapons by claiming it's being done for "defensive" purposes. That's just a lie ... and it's always been a lie.

It's been the case on Ebola and just about every other biowarfare agent you can think of.

WASHINGTON'S BLOG: Does that type of research violate the Biological Weapons Convention?

DR. FRANCIS BOYLE: Well, of course! It also violates the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act [which Boyle drafted], which was passed unanimously by both houses of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Bush, Senior.

That Act creates life in prison for this type of "Dr. Menegle" type work.

WASHINGTON'S BLOG: And Obama recently said - as quoted in the New York Times article - that he's "curtailing" this type of defensive research, or putting it on hold.

Do you believe him?

DR. FRANCIS BOYLE: That's the smoking gun, right there. Read that article [the New York Times article quoted above, which notes "a sudden change of heart by the Obama administration" about labs creating ever-deadlier versions of germs which are already lethal].

The reason they've stopped it is to cover themselves, I think, because they know that this type of work was behind the outbreak of the [Ebola] pandemic in West Africa.

But that's an admission right there, de facto.

_ _ _

Dr. Boyle made it clear that he is not suggesting - as some others are - that Ebola was intentionally released into the African population. He says he has seen no evidence of intentional release. He's speaking about an accidental release of germs from a biowarfare research lab.

He's convinced, in fact, that this Ebola epidemic in Africa started with the release from a U.S. bioweapons lab in West Africa. One of the reasons for his conviction that the outbreak started with the release from a bioweapon lab is that this Ebola strain seems to be much worse than those previously seen in the wild.

As Dr. Boyle told us:

It seems to me that [the Ebola epidemic in West Africa] has U.S. biowarfare programs written all over it.
Fri, October 24, 2014 - 10:14 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Zelda Williams Honors Late Father Robin Williams with Hummingbird Tattoo

Via: www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/1...52.html

Robin Williams' daughter is keeping the memory of her late father alive in a very permanent and personal way.

On Tuesday, Zelda Williams shared a photo of the newly inked hummingbird on her right hand, along with the beloved actor's birthdate, "7.21.51." The tattoo is a tribute to her father, who died in August.

"For poppo," she wrote along with the photo. "Thank you to the incomparable @dr_woo_ssc for so beautifully bringing my reminders to life. I'll always put my hand out to shake with a smile."

The 25-year-old, who previously quit Twitter and Instagram after being taunted by trolls following her Robin's death, went on to say that she wasn't sure how she'd be using her account in the future.

"As for this Instagram, I don't know in what capacity I'll continue using it in the future, but I'm leaving it up regardless so that fake accounts hoping to use my name or misuse my family's photos will get no traction," she wrote. "To be clear, this is MY ONLY account. Publicly, I have Twitter, and this. If other people post quotes and photos claiming to be me or my family, please, do not send them personal information or click links, even for charity.They could be utilizing sympathy to scam you. For the record, no one has ever or will ever speak for me but me. Thank you."

[Photo via @zeldawilliams]
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 12:11 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

George Soros Slams Putin, Warns of "Existential Threat" from Russia, Demands $20 Billion from IMF in "Russia War Effort"

If even George Soros is getting concerned and writing Op-Eds, then Putin must be truly winning.

Via: www.zerohedge.com/news/2014...eat-russia

Here are the highlights from what the Open Society founder has to say about the "existential" Russian threat in a just released Op-Ed:

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

Getting warmer:

[Europe] fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do.

Even warmer:

All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits

And hot, hot, hot:

[IMF] should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

And there it is: the Russian "existential" war threat is, to Soros, nothing but an excuse to end the whole (f)austerity experiment (just don't show Soros Europe's latest record high debt load), and to return to its drunken sailor spending ways.

Ironically, this is precisely what we said would happen, only the globalist neo-cons were hoping the Ukraine civil war would become an all out war between Russia and Ukraine, thus unleashing the "spend your way to prosperity" Soroses of the world. For now, this plan has failed which is why ISIS was brought into the picture.

But it never hurts to try, eh George. And the one thing that is not mentioned is that the people who would gain the most from this latest IMF spending spree would be, you guessed it, billionaires like George Soros of course

* * *

From George Soros, first posted in the New York Reviews of Books: epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache...EN.PDF

Wake Up, Europe

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.

The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.

Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August, when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low-level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent.

In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermobaric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect.* The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.

In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it.

Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country.

There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a precondition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.

To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack the Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol.

It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.

Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he could simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.

That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?

The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.

These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.

There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, put it, “If you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”

Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.

The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.

The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.

To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.

I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.

The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.

Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.

Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.

The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.

It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.

The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.

The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).

Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.

By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.

Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the next few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed. Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.

The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $47 per trillion cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.

The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.

It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine.

—October 23, 2014
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 8:16 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Pentagon Admits Weapons-Drop Fail as Anti-ISIS Operation Hits $424mn

Via: rt.com/news/198388-we...mic-kurdish-us/

The Pentagon has admitted that a chunk of its cache of weapons meant for Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants in Kobani has fallen into terrorist hands. The Turkish president has been voicing his frustration with Washington over this.

On Wednesday, the US defense body went against earlier government claims that American weapons always reach its intended destinations and had to concede that two bundles out of a total of 28 intended for the Kurds have indeed ended up with the terrorists.

The militants’ advances on the Syrian-Turkish border are what spurred Washington into action in the first place.

This comes as the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) posted a video showing off brand-new American hardware in boxes with English writing and a parachute splayed out just beside the windfall.

"Yesterday we announced that one resupply bundle went astray and was destroyed. We have since relooked at that and we have determined that a second bundle also went astray and probably fell into enemy hands," Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren said.

One of the bundles was later destroyed in an airstrike.

The video itself caused quite a stir on the social media landscape with users ‘thanking’ Washington for delivering the arms into the wrong hands, something the US has in the past vowed to avoid.

The previous day saw a much more optimistic White House, when Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes insisted to CNN that the administration feels “very confident that, when we air drop support as we did into Kobani… we’ve been able to hit the target in terms of reaching the people we want to reach.”

It was Washington which earlier maintained that the air drops were of the utmost urgency for the border town of Kobani to remain intact, and that it was high time to take a more drastic approach to “degrading and destroying” the IS, which outnumbered and outgunned the Syrian-Kurdish resistance.

The fight against IS terrorists has so far cost Washington approximately $424 million since the start of the operation on August 8, according to the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby. He averaged the defense body’s spending to be around $7.6 million a day.

The Syria campaign has so far lasted about a month. American air strikes there have so far killed 553 people, including 32 civilians.

But the current failure to deliver lethal equipment into the right hands is not an isolated incident – merely the latest in a series of gains by IS terrorists rampaging through northern Syria and Iraq, where millions of dollars in American equipment had already been collected from abandoned military bases.

It has in some circles become common sense that the threat posed by the IS has been greatly facilitated by America, whose weapons manufacturers are now reaping the benefits of the destruction caused by the terrorists by advocating for more weapons exports.

“In terms of the companies’ interests, profit and revenue, surely war facilitates that if you’re a defense industry. The irony is that the US and the larger coalition is using these weapons oftentimes against Islamic State, which has been armed inadvertently by the US and these Sunni-coalition countries. Because we provided arms in the context of the Arab awakening to support the uprising against [Alawite (Shiite) Syrian President] Assad. And Islamic State ended up prying these weapons away from the so-called ‘moderate Syrian rebels’, as well as by scaring the Iraqi federal forces into submission. And the US had been arming to the teeth the Iraqi government,” Max Abrahms, an expert on terrorism at Northeastern University, told RT.

Turkish frustration

“It has emerged that what was done was wrong,” came the reaction from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, as cited by Hurriyet Daily News, when word of the delivery failure broke.

Turkey was adamantly opposed to any deliveries – military or otherwise – to Kurdish forces, which it views as ‘terrorists’. It was in fact the PYD [the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party forces] that bore the brunt of the IS onslaught on the Syrian-Turkish border town, as Istanbul’s tanks kept a watchful eye from a distance.

When asked earlier if it would intervene to help repel the terrorist group that earlier promised to “liberate Istanbul,” the Turkish government said it would, only in the event of Turkish soldiers being endangered. It referred to the troops guarding a historical landmark inside Syria the Turkish believe to be rightfully theirs.

Now Erdogan also appears frustrated that the Kurdish forces were sent any weapons at all.

“We told [US President Barack Obama] that ‘Support that you will lend to the PYD and the PKK is not acceptable to us.’” He could have been referring to a weekend conversation with the US leader, who tried to implore him to reconsider the air drops.

“Two days passed, we are in the third/fourth day, Kobani didn’t fall. Moreover, I have difficulty in understanding why Kobani is this much strategic for [the US], because there are no civilians left in Kobani anymore; 200,000 people crossed into Turkey and we are hosting them. Only around 2,000 fighters are left in Kobani and they didn’t say ‘yes’ to Peshmerga first, but now, at the last moment, they said ‘yes’. And we told [Obama] we would be ‘helpful’ about this.”

“Such an operation cannot be defined and explained. That’s to say, a healthy comment cannot be made in regards to whether a result will be obtained through this or not. To whom and to where you are lending support, everything is obvious,” the Turkish leader claimed.
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 7:46 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Solar Eclipse Tonight Visible in Eastern Time Zone 5:45-6:30PM (Sunset)

Via:www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/...a/detroit

Eclipse Calculator – Eclipses in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.

Next eclipse visible in Detroit – October 23, 2014 — Partial Solar Eclipse

The animation shows what the eclipse approximately looks like in Detroit

During this partial solar eclipse, the Moon covers only parts of the Sun, as seen from Detroit. As the central part of the Moon's shadow (umbra) misses the Earth during a partial solar eclipse, there are no other locations on Earth where the Sun appears completely covered during this event.

More about the October 23, 2014 — Partial Solar Eclipse

Time: Thursday, October 23 at 6:31 PM EDT
Sun Direction: 254.00° (WSW)
Sun Altitude: 0.75°
▶▶▶❍↔
Local times for eclipse in Detroit on Thursday, October 23, 2014

Click on the Sun/Moon symbol in the “Looks like” column to see what the eclipse looks like during the different phases of the event.

This eclipse is in progress during sunrise or sunset, so the Sun is displayed only partly in some phases, according to its altitude below the horizon. The animation's bottom edge represents an ideal, flat horizon, which is at the same altitude as the observer.

Times are local for Detroit (EDT - Eastern Daylight Time).

Other eclipses visible in Detroit

Dates (Click link for path info) Eclipse Type at max Visibility in Detroit Looks like in Detroit Path of the eclipse
Oct 23, 2014 Solar Partial Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Apr 4, 2015 Lunar Partial Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Sep 27 / Sep 28, 2015 Lunar Total Total Eclipse as seen from earth
Mar 23, 2016 Lunar Penumbral Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
Feb 10, 2017 Lunar Penumbral Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
Aug 21, 2017 Solar Total Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Jan 31, 2018 Lunar Total Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Jan 20 / Jan 21, 2019 Lunar Total Total Eclipse as seen from earth
Jul 4 / Jul 5, 2020 Lunar Penumbral Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
Nov 30, 2020 Lunar Penumbral Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
May 26, 2021 Lunar Partial Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Jun 10, 2021 Solar Annular Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Nov 19, 2021 Lunar Partial Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
May 15 / May 16, 2022 Lunar Total Total Eclipse as seen from earth
Nov 8, 2022 Lunar Total Total Eclipse as seen from earth
Oct 14, 2023 Solar Annular Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Oct 28, 2023 Lunar Partial Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
Mar 25, 2024 Lunar Penumbral Penumbral Eclipse as seen from earth
Apr 8, 2024 Solar Total Total Eclipse as seen from earth
Sep 17 / Sep 18, 2024 Lunar Partial Partial Eclipse as seen from earth
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 7:34 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

EXCLUSIVE: TOP LAWYER AT ICE RESIGNS

Via: www.breitbart.com/Big-Gover...CE-Resigns

The top lawyer at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has resigned weeks before President Obama is expected to issue a major executive amnesty.

Peter S. Vincent, ICE's principal legal advisor, resigned, telling colleagues in an email Tuesday afternoon “I have decided that the time is right for me to make a change and to move on to other opportunities and challenges.”

There is no evidence Vincent's departure is related to potential executive actions by the president, although the timing is conspicuous.

Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for ICE, said “Any insinuation that his departure is a reflection on ICE efforts to focus resources through prosecutorial discretion, or any possible administrative action related to immigration reform is inaccurate and a discredit to the tireless work he has performed for the agency over the past six years.”

In his farewell email to colleagues, Vincent did not provide any specific reason for his departure, nor any information about his plans after leaving the agency.

Christensen said Vincent's “true passion lies in legal and international affairs and that is what he is planning to pursue in the next phase of his career.”

In addition to his title as “principal legal advisor,” Vincent also carried the title “senior counselor for international policy.”

Vincent was a key player in the implementation of President Obama's “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival” program issued in 2012, for instance issuing 2011 guidance to ICE lawyers about the program.

In the email, Vincent recounted how ICE's work is often controversial.

“As I have often said, much of what we do at ICE to protect the homeland is, for better or worse, guaranteed to upset exactly 50 percent of the public, 100 percent of the time. You, more than any other group of dedicated professionals and committed public servants, are best suited and ideally situated to handle the incredibly delicate balance of protecting the homeland while, at the same time, remaining sensitive to compelling humanitarian concerns,” he said.

“Mr. Vincent has been a proud and valued member of ICE’s leadership team and his contributions will be greatly missed by the agency,” Christensen said.
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 7:32 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Democrats Fed Up With Obama's Inept, Embarrassing White House

Via: www.breitbart.com/InstaBlog...hite-House

According to one Democrat strategist quoted in this report, "The ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing." And they're far from alone in the growing criticism of Obama's White House.

Most know of Michelle Obama's now infamous gaffe with regard to the name of Iowa Dempocrat and Senate candidate, Bruce Braley. She repeatedly referred to him as "Bruce Bailey" while stumping for him. But that incident didn't end there. The White House press office didn't even seem to know for which office he is running.

The relationship between the White House and Senate Democrats hit a new low Tuesday evening after the administration's press office released a transcript of first lady Michelle Obama's appearance in Iowa on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley. The problem: The subject line of the e-mail referred to Braley as the "Democratic candidate for governor."

Plus, there's now more than Barack Obama's current unpopularity for this.

President Obama hasn't been invited to campaign in any battleground Senate races, with the exception of Michigan, where Democrats have long held a comfortable lead. Instead, he's spent most of his time headlining fundraisers for the Democratic campaign committees.

Between insisting he and his policies are on the ballot in November even as his fellow Democrats try to distance themselves from him - and also recently saying how they all have consistently supported him, in essence, despite the campaign rhetoric, it may not be longer before Democrats are the ones calling for Obama's impeachment in an effort to save their own skins come November.
Thu, October 23, 2014 - 7:32 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Still No Remorse: Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Shooting of Iraqi Civilians

Zero Conscience: The Mark of a True Terrorist

Via: www.foxnews.com/politics/2...ards-trial/

[File photos of former Blackwater Worldwide guards Paul Slough (Dec. 8, 2008), Nicholas Slatten (June 11, 2014), Evan Liberty (June 11, 2014) and Dustin Heard (Jan. 6, 2009). (AP)]

Four former Blackwater security guards were found guilty Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, and a federal judge ordered them immediately to jail.

In an overwhelming victory for prosecutors, a jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. The three other guards -- Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard -- were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.

The four men had been charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three charges against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges.

The outcome after a summerlong trial and weeks of jury deliberation stunned the defense.

David Schertler, a lawyer for Heard, said "the verdict is wrong, it's incomprehensible. We're devastated. We're going to fight it every step of the way. We still think we're going to win."

The shootings on Sept. 16, 2007, caused an international uproar over the role of defense contractors in urban warfare.

The State Department hired Blackwater to protect American diplomats in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, and elsewhere in the country. Blackwater convoys of four heavily armored vehicles operated in risky environments where car bombs and attacks by insurgents were common.

Slatten was charged with first-degree murder; the others were charged with voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.

The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried.

The trial focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards.

There was sharp disagreement over the facts in the case.

The defendants' lawyers said there was strong evidence the guards were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, leading the guards to shoot back in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and that the shootings by the guards were unprovoked.

The prosecution focused on the defendants' intent, contending that some of the Blackwater guards harbored a low regard and deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians.

The guards, the prosecution said, held "a grave indifference" to the death and injury that their actions probably would cause Iraqis. Several former Blackwater guards testified that they had been generally distrustful of Iraqis, based on experience the guards said they had had in being led into ambushes.

Prosecutors said that from a vantage point inside his convoy's command vehicle, Slatten aimed his SR-25 sniper rifle through a gun portal, killing the driver of a stopped white Kia sedan, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia'y.

At the trial, two Iraqi traffic officers and one of the shooting victims testified the car was stopped at the time the shots were fired. The assertion that the car was stopped supported the prosecution argument that the shots were unwarranted.

Defense lawyers pressed their argument that other Blackwater guards -- not Slatten -- fired the first shots at the Kia sedan and that they did so only after the vehicle moved slowly toward the convoy, posing what appeared to be a threat to the Blackwater guards' safety.

Once the shooting started, hundreds of Iraqi citizens ran for their lives.

It was "gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right," prosecutor Anthony Asuncion told the jury in closing arguments.

One of the government witnesses in the case, Blackwater guard Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty to killing the driver's mother, who died in the passenger seat of the white Kia next to her son.

The maximum sentence for conviction of first-degree murder is life imprisonment. The gun charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms of 30 years. The maximum prison term for involuntary manslaughter is eight years; for attempted manslaughter it is seven years.
Wed, October 22, 2014 - 10:46 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment
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