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Puppet Masters


Kucinich: U.S. 'Immeasurably' closer to war in Syria as American troops to be deployed in Jordan

US News Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich believes the deployment of American troops in Jordan - which was announced Wednesday - brings the United States "immeasurably" closer to being dragged into the civil war in Syria.

"I can see in a moment how it happens: we're a few dozen miles from the Syrian border and all of a sudden we are within the reach of physical danger. All it takes is a single incident," Kucinich said in a phone interview with U.S. News.

The Ohio congressman complained that the commander-in-chief sent the troops to Jordan "without notifying Congress." Ironically, Kucinich noted, the Obama administration announced the deployment exactly ten years after the House of Representatives authorized President George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

Comment: Perhaps that is the whole point?


Israel plans 'huge earthquake drill' next week that assumes mass casualties of 7,000 dead, 70,000 wounded

Israel is planning a huge emergency drill for next week amid speculation and fears that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will order a unilateral strike on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. The drill tests the country's ability to cope with an earthquake, and assumes hypothetical mass casualties of 7,000 dead, 70,000 wounded and 170,000 without a home.

The drill will also include a scenario simulating a toxic chemical leak at the northern coastal port in Haifa. This is the first time a Home Front drill has dealt with a natural disaster scenario as opposed to a war scenario.

"The drill is designed to improve preparations for an earthquake, but will also prepare the public and ministries for other emergency scenarios," Home Front Commander Eyal Eisenberg said during a press conference.

Light Sabers

Hezbollah confirms sending drone into Israeli airspace


Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah confirms the Lebanese resistance movement has sent a drone deep into the Israeli airspace evading radar systems.

The operation code-named Hussein Ayub saw Hezbollah's drone fly hundreds of kilometers into the Israeli airspace and getting very close to Dimona nuclear plant without being detected by advanced Israeli and US radars, Nasrallah said during a televised speech late on Thursday.
"This is only part of our capabilities," he stressed, adding that Israelis have admitted to their security failure despite being provided with the latest technologies by Western powers.


Picking a fight: Turkey diverts Syria-bound airplane from Moscow and claims it was carrying munitions for Damascus

Syirian airplane
© Video still from AP
Passengers onboard the plane intercepted by Turkish jets said that security forces were making the crew and passengers sign fraudulent papers suggesting that the plane made an emergency landing and no Turkish military were involved in the incident.

­Hours after Turkish authorities announced that the Syrian Airlines passenger plane intercepted by its F-16s was granted a departure clearance, the aircraft remained on the tarmac in darkness.

"Four people onboard have been beaten up, two crew and two passengers, as they tried to force them to sign documents," Sherin Azis, a hostess on the plane, told RT by phone. "We don't know what these papers are about. We are scared for the fate of the captain. He was taken away and threatened with arrest if he does not sign an emergency landing paper."

Fatima al-Saman, a passenger and a mother of three, also told RT that the captain was being forced to sign a release stating that military planes were not involved and the plane just made an emergency landing.

"If we do not agree to these terms, they will take the captain kind of hostage," al-Saman said. "They are threatening us. The captain has now returned and said that 'either I sign the document that I made an emergency landing or they are taking me hostage.'"

Comment: NATO member Turkey seems to be trying very hard lately to pick up a fight with Syria - and in the process upsetting Russia. Washington and Tel-Aviv must be getting impatient.

See also:

Turkish leader says Russian munitions found on Syrian jetliner

Mr. Potato

U.S. names top diplomat for Libya

Washington - The new top U.S. diplomat for Libya has arrived in the county to assume temporary control of the embassy in Tripoli after last month's deadly attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

The State Department said Thursday that Laurence Pope, an Arabic-speaking 31-year foreign service officer who retired in 2000, will serve as the charge d'affaires pending confirmation of the person who will be nominated to succeed Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the Sept. 11 attack.

The department said that Pope, a former ambassador to Chad and counter-terrorism director, would continue the work that Stevens had been doing and that his appointment underscored a U.S. commitment to work with Libya as it transitions to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule.

Source: The Associated Press


Binyamin Netanyahu has no credible opposition in the general election

Netanyahu's adherence to the status quo prevents him from dealing with Israel's problems - but rivals present no challenge.

Binyamin Netanyahu - 01
© Ariel Jerozolimski
Binyamin Netanyahu
Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is running for a second re-election - something that no Israeli leader has achieved since David Ben-Gurion, the country's founding father. On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced an early election in January, which he will almost surely win. His centre-left rivals are too disorganised, unpopular, or inexperienced, while the ruling rightwing block enjoys a stable majority in opinion polls.

In his campaign-launching televised address, Netanyahu put "ensuring that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb" atop his agenda. He made similar declarations before the previous election, in February 2009. Keeping Iran in the headlines serves Bibi's political goals: he appears to be the only possible leader with enough experience, authority and diplomatic skill to deal with the issue. If Iran is the key problem, Netanyahu is the obvious solution.

The recent weeks' global debate about whether Israel would, or should, attack Iran's nuclear installations was a successful prelude to Netanyahu's campaign. Other politicians have little to say about Iran, or they fear to appear soft if they criticise the government's sabre-rattling. In reality, Netanyahu's Iran policy has been a failure. Even by his own account at a recent UN speech, the Iranians are ever closer to the bomb. The public doesn't care, however. There is little appetite for going to war now, or alone. According to successive polls, most Israelis would like to see America's air power, rather than Israel's, bombing Natanz.


Yemeni security official for U.S. embassy shot dead

© The Associated Press/Hani Mohammed
Yemenis protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in September.
Cairo - A Yemeni man working on security issues with the U.S. Embassy in the capital Sanaa was killed Thursday in a drive-by shooting. Some analysts suspect al-Qaida was behind the attack.

The shooting took place in a residential neighborhood west of Sanaa as U.S. Embassy employee Qassem Aqlani was heading to work..

A witness to the shooting, Mansour al Hamadi, said he saw the attackers riding a motor-bike.

He said one of the gunmen called Aqlani by name as he was on his way to work and then shot him in the head with three bullets after catching his attention.

Arab satellite channels said Aqlani was involved in the investigation of a recent attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Sanaa in which a mob broke through the gate and damaged embassy vehicles and other property.

Comment: al-Qaida? More like al-CIA-duh!


Turkish leader says Russian munitions found on Syrian jetliner

© Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press
A Syrian passenger plane that was forced by Turkish jets to land sat idle at Esenboga airport in Ankara early Thursday.
Moscow - Escalating a confrontation with Russia, Turkey's prime minister said Thursday that Russian military equipment and ammunition bound for Syria's Defense Ministry had been confiscated from a Syrian civilian jetliner on a Moscow-to-Damascus flight, which was forced to land in Ankara on suspicion of illicitly carrying war material.

The accusation by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which directly contradicted Russian denials, also further inflamed Turkey's already difficult relationship with Syria, where a 19-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has expanded into a civil war that is threatening the stability of the Middle East.

Mr. Erdogan's accusation, reported by Turkey's semiofficial Anatolian News Agency, came only hours after the Kremlin said no military cargo had been aboard the plane and accused the Turks of illegally grounding and searching it. The Turks, saying they had acted on an intelligence tip, forced the Air Syria flight with 35 passengers aboard to land at an Ankara airport on Wednesday.

"From Russia, an institution equivalent to our Machinery and Chemical Industry has sent military tools, equipment and ammunition to the Syrian Defense Ministry," Mr. Erdogan was quoted as saying about the plane inspection. He was drawing a comparison to Turkey's Machinery and Chemical Industry Institution, or MKEK, a leading provider of defense equipment to the Turkish military.

Arrow Down

The IMF admits it was wrong: Austerity did damage the British economy

For the UK, and indeed other advanced economies, the most important point in today's IMF World Economic Outlook is not that it further explodes the myth - repeated again yesterday by the Chancellor - that low interest rates reflect policy "credibility" rather than economic weakness, or that it again emphasises that the UK and others could and should loosen fiscal policy in the face of that weakness. The IMF said all this about the UK back in July, as I explained then. Rather, it is that the Fund has radically revised its opinion about just how damaging the impacts of premature fiscal consolidation have been in the UK and elsewhere.

Back in July, the Fund said that fiscal consolidation had knocked about 2.5% off UK economic growth. This estimate was based on an assumption that the "fiscal multiplier" - the reduction in GDP growth resulting from a reduction in the government's structural budget deficit - was about 0.5. This estimate was quite similar to that coming out of macroeconomic models like ours at NIESR. It was somewhat larger than the impact estimated by the Office of Budget Responsibility. But it was much smaller that the impacts that many of the most credible macroeconomists - Brad Delong and Paul Krugman in the United States, Martin Wolf and Simon Wren-Lewis here - thought likely. [See Krugman here, for example]. It was also significantly smaller than Dawn Holland here at NIESR and colleagues at LSE suggest in the analysis here.

Eye 1

Police State: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses eavesdropping lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits in San Francisco against the nation's telecommunications companies for cooperating with the Bush administration's secret surveillance program, leaving intact an immunity law supported by President Obama.

The 2008 law shielded the companies from liability for their alleged roles in helping the government intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without a search warrant. Obama voted for the law as a senator and has defended it in court as president.

The high court, without comment, denied a hearing on an appeal by AT&T customers after lower federal courts upheld the law.

The order does not affect a separate wiretapping suit by the customers against the government, currently pending before a federal judge in San Francisco. The plaintiffs allege that federal agents conducted warrantless "dragnet" surveillance that intercepted millions of messages from U.S. residents. The suit is partly based on testimony in 2003 by a former AT&T technician about equipment in the company's Folsom Street office that allowed Internet traffic to be routed to the government.