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Davos panel sees huge Iranian response to attack

© Associated Press
President of the Council on Foreign Relations, USA, Richard Haass speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Davos, Switzerland - A diverse panel of decision-makers and experts from the United States, Europe and the Middle East found common ground on just one thing when it comes to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program Friday: A military strike could well spark a devastating counterattack.

In the debate at the World Economic Forum, former top U.S. diplomat Richard Haass said there were no good options should diplomacy fail, but stood apart from the others in advocating force as a viable option. He sparred repeatedly with Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, who urged the United States to instead pressure Israel to quit its own reported nuclear weapons as a way of coaxing Iran to drop its suspected weapons program as well.

Haass replied that there was no time for this because of the speed of Iran's program - and rejected the assertion by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan that the program might be civilian, as Tehran has repeatedly claimed.

The Davos panel thus reflected the basic disagreement that divides world powers and bedevils diplomatic efforts: All seem to oppose Iran producing a nuclear weapon, but there are disagreements over whether to believe its protestations. And down the road lies the open question of whether war is worse than acquiescence.


Anti-Smoking Campaign: Monk First To Be Charged Under Bhutan Anti-Smoking Law

© iStockphoto
A Buddhist monk could face five years in prison after becoming the first casualty of a stringent anti-smoking law in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which vows to become the first smoke-free nation.

The monk has been charged with consuming and smuggling contraband tobacco under a law that came into force this month, the newspaper Kuensel reported Friday, having been caught in possession of 72 packets of chewing tobacco.

Bhutan, where smoking is considered bad for one's karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. But with a thriving smuggling operation from neighboring India, the ban failed to make much of an impact.

The new law has granted police powers to enter homes, threatening jail for shopkeepers selling tobacco and smokers who fail to provide customs receipts for imported cigarettes.

"He can be charged with smuggling of controlled substances, which is a fourth degree felony," a police official from the Narcotic Drug and Law enforcement Unit of Bhutan, who did not want to be identified, told the Bhutan Today newspaper.


Wishful thinking? Israel predicts Egypt regime will survive

© unk
Voices from a different generation
Wave of demonstrations throughout Israel's southern neighbour raised speculation about whether Mubarak forced from office, how protest movement affect ties with Cairo.

Israel expects the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will survive democracy protests that have shaken the country over the past three days, government officials and analysts said.

The wave of demonstrations throughout Israel's southern neighbour have raised speculation about whether Mubarak will be forced from office, and how the protest movement will affect ties with Cairo.

Egypt is one of only two Arab nations, along with Jordan, to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, and is considered a key strategic partner for the Jewish state in the Middle East.

Heart - Black

National BP Oil Spill Commission Report "Shredded" By Industry Expert

"First Dispersant Study Funded by Feds: COREXIT "did NOT degrade"... "It didn't go away" - May not have even broken up the oil" - Florida Oil Spill Law

BP Knowingly Drilled Macondo MC 252 in High Risk Geohazard Area

The recently published National Commission Report to the President of the United States of America (11th January 2011) and BP's own earlier Accident Investigation Report dated 8th September 2010 have focused almost entirely on the failings of equipment and processes on the drilldeck of the Deepwater Horizon, on the seafloor BOP and associated equipment and on the errors and mistakes made in drilling and cementing up of the close to completed well.

Green Light

Egyptian army chief was visiting Pentagon before protests erupted

© Reuters
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Egypt calling on President Mubarak to step down
Senior official apparently cutting short defence talks as unrest sweeps his country.

The Pentagon has said that Lieutenant General Sami Enan, the Egyptian army's chief of staff, has departed Washington, cutting short a planned week-long visit as unrest sweeps his country.

The previously scheduled annual defence talks had been adjourned after "the Egyptian delegation was called home by its government," Colonel Dave Lapan, the Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement on Friday.

Sandy Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defence, led the US side for the talks and reiterated the Washington's appeal for restraint in dealing with widespread unrest, Lapan said.

"The current situation in Egypt arose very quickly, but Ambassador Vershbow did have the opportunity to urge restraint to his Egyptian counterpart during the Wednesday and Thursday meetings here in the Pentagon," he said.

Egypt receives about $1.3bn a year in US military aid and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance - second only to Israel.

The country's armed forces - the world's 10th biggest with more than 468,000 members - have been at the heart of power since army officers staged an overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.


Palestinians preventing Middle East peace deal, says Israeli deputy PM

© Jim Hollander/Associated Press
Moshe Ya'alon Moshe Ya'alon said without Palestinian recognition of Israel there could be no resolution of the Middle East conflict.
Moshe Ya'alon says Israel is 'fed up of giving and giving' while Palestinians refuse to recognise Jewish nation state

An agreement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not happen in the next "one or two years", Israel's deputy prime minister said today, blaming the Palestinians for the lack of progress.

"We're fed up with giving and giving and giving, and not getting any real substance [in return]," said Moshe Ya'alon, the minister of strategic affairs, after this week's leak of secret documents on the peace talks. He dismissed the extensive concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, revealed in the documents, saying they were insignificant compared to the "core of the conflict - our right to exist".

Green Light

US Supreme Court overturns lower court in record time! Rahm Emanuel CAN run for Chicago mayor

© Reuters
Am I not charming?
Court reverses ruling by a lower court that had ordered Emanuel's name removed from the February 22 ballot, declaring he had not lived in Chicago long enough to qualify for the race.

United States President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is eligible to run for mayor of Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court reversed a ruling by a lower court that had ordered Emanuel's name removed from the February 22 ballot, declaring he had not lived in Chicago long enough to qualify for the race.


Republican senator favors cutting US aid to Israel

© Associated Press
From left, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del. and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. sit on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, prior to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
Wasington - Tea party-backed Republican Sen. Rand Paul favors cutting U.S. aid to Israel as part of a deficit-driven effort to slash government spending by $500 billion this year, drawing criticism from Democrats and Republicans who argue the U.S. must be unwavering in its support for the longtime Mideast ally.

The freshman Kentucky lawmaker unveiled his budget proposal this week that would make significant cuts in education, housing and energy while reducing money for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by $16 billion. Paul's plan also would cut some $20 billion in overseas aid, and he said he wants to eliminate the $3 billion the United States provides to Israel annually in foreign military assistance.

"The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Senator Paul - our current fiscal crisis makes it impossible to continue the spending policies of the past," Paul spokesman Gary Howard said in a statement responding to the criticism. "We simply cannot afford to give money away, even to our allies, with so much debt mounting on a daily basis."


Kuwait ruler gifts money and food coupons to all his subjects!

© Al Bawaba
Kuwait emir
Kuwait's ruler is giving 1,000 dinar ($3,559) grants and free food coupons for every citizen of his nation. The state news agency KUNA reported Monday that Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah has decided to hand out the gifts for all the 1 million Kuwaiti citizens.

According to the AP, the decision covers newborns until Feb. 1. It excludes 2.2 million foreigner workers. The food program is expected to offer free staples such as rice, eggs and milk until March 2012.

Kuwait will next month mark the 50th anniversary of independence, 20th anniversary of liberation from Iraqi occupation under Saddam Hussein and the fifth anniversary of the emir's ascendance to power.


Egypt Protests: America's Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising

© The Telegraph
Thousands of protesters continue to march on the streets of Egypt's cities and towns demanding the removal of Egyptian dictator Mubarak
The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning "regime change" for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

The secret document in full

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.