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Paul Krugman: Sequester 'was designed to be stupid'

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman used some of President Barack Obama's language on Friday in describing the spending cuts the president signed into effect.

While the federal sequester isn't as bad as the "fiscal cliff" debate that tied up Congress and the White House at the end of 2012, Krugman told MSNBC host Ed Schultz, "it's bad, and of course, it's degrading government services. Not only are cuts the wrong thing to be doing right now, but these are especially dumb cuts."

Before making them official, Obama called the cuts "dumb" and "arbitrary" following a meeting with GOP and Democratic party leaders. A report that 700,000 jobs would be lost on account of the spending cuts, Krugman said, was conservative, given the effects of similar cuts across Europe.

"This was designed to be stupid," Krugman said. "The whole point was, this was supposed to be a doomsday device that would force the [Democratic and Republican] parties to reach an agreement. Of course, they didn't, and here it goes."

Star of David

Turkish Prime Minister: Zionism is crime against humanity

Speaking Wednesday in Vienna at a United Nations summit for tolerance, Erdogan said, "Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity," Anatolia News Agency and other Turkish media reported.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group, called on Erdogan to apologize for his "shocking" statements and urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to condemn the speech publicly. UN Watch said Ban was on stage while Erdogan was speaking.

Green Light

Senators press resolution to green-light Israeli attack on Iran

© Amos Ben Gershom / GPO via Getty Images
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference March 22, 2010 in Washington, DC.
A joint resolution set to be introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC) and Robert Menendez (NJ), a Republican and Democrat, respectively, declares U.S. support for an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear program. The resolution, which expresses the sense of the Congress, will be supported by the thousands of delegates to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee annual conference that will stream through the Capitol this weekend. With prominent liberal Democrats already signing on, AIPAC's lobbying heft will likely propel a bill that, in Congressional sentiment at least, commits the U.S. to active support of a potential Israeli attack that experts think could have consequences as grave as further destabilization in the region, adverse global economic consequences, and even a hardening of Iranian resolve to get a weapon.

According to a copy obtained by Open Zion, the resolution, while affirming increasingly harsh sanctions, also "urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence." Tempering some fears about the bill, the authors added that the resolution shouldn't "be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war" by the U.S. Though the caveat will surely placate some members of Congress, it seems potentially at odds with a pledge of "military... support" in the event of an attack - language that, though unlikely for now, if actuated into policy could suggest the U.S. would be dragged into a war based on an Israeli decision to strike.

"Initiating a war is the gravest step any nation can take," said Columbia University professor Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former White House official. "This legislation would effectively entrust that decision to a regional state. Such a decision is an American sovereign responsibility. It cannot be outsourced."

Bad Guys

Be careful: Russia is back to stay in the Middle East


The port of Tartus, Russia’s dream of Mediterranean presence also sits on a bubble of natural gas
Russia is back. President Vladimir Putin wants the world to acknowledge that Russia remains a global power. He is making his stand in Syria.

The Soviet Union acquired the Tardus Naval Port in Syria in 1971 without any real purpose for it. With their ships welcomed in Algeria, Cuba or Vietnam, Tardus was too insignificant to be developed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lacked the funds to spend on the base and no reason to invest in it.

The Russian return to the Middle East brought them first to where the Soviet Union had had its closest ties. Libya had been a major buyer of arms and many of the military officers had studied in the Soviet Union. Russia was no longer a global power, but it could be used by the Libyans as a counter force to block domination by the United States and Europeans.

When Gaddafi fell, Tardus became Russia's only presence in the region. That and the discovery of vast gas deposits just offshore have transformed the once insignificant port into a strategic necessity.


"Syrian Opposition Coalition" handcrafted by the U.S., and founded in Doha


US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with pro-Al Qaeda Mouaz al-Khatib, who heads the militant front set to receive an additional $60 million in US aid claimed to be "non-lethal." The UK, and more astonishingly, France who is fighting terrorists in Mali created by a similar intervention in Libya in 2011, have announced similar plans to further aid and abet terrorists in Syria.
The US State Department, and to a greater extent, US foreign policy itself, having exhausted completely their collective credibility, has attempted yet another "reset." By bringing in John Kerry to pose as the next US Secretary of State, it is hoped global opinion will see US foreign policy in a new, more tolerant light. Kerry, however, has wasted no time attempting to simply resell verbatim the same failed, absurd policy US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton destroyed her career peddling, spinning, and covering up - as finalized in the case of Benghazi, Libya.

The Washington Post's piece, "U.S. announces expanded battlefield aid to Syrian rebels, but not arms," rehashes the same tired, patently false narrative that has been used throughout the duration of the US-fueled Syrian conflict. The Washington Post reports:
The Obama administration will provide food and medicine to Syrian rebel fighters, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Thursday, announcing a cautious U.S. foray into front-line battlefield support that falls far short of the heavy weapons or high-tech gear the rebels seek.

"The stakes are really high, and we can't risk letting this country - in the heart of the Middle East - be destroyed by vicious autocrats or hijacked by the extremists," Kerry said following discussions among a group of Western and Arab nations that are funding, and in some cases arming, the fighters.

The United States will, for the first time, send supplies through the rebels' central military headquarters, with U.S. advisers supervising the distribution of food rations and medical supplies, U.S. officials said. The shift is intended to give the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition greater say over the aid, but it is also a test of the rebels' ability to keep donated supplies out of the hands of extremists in their midst.
The Washington Post report is a verified lie. US assistance, cash, weapons, and covert military support had been ongoing in Syria since 2007 - in other words - before the current conflict even began. And the US has been providing this support not for moderates, but specifically and intentionally for the ideological foundation of Al Qaeda itself, the sectarian extremist Muslim Brotherhood, since the Bush administration.

Star of David

Profiling Israel's undercover Mistaarvim unit

 Israeli undercover agents arresting a Palestinian boy
© Lazar Simeonov
Israeli undercover agents arresting a Palestinian boy suspected of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers during a protest in the Old City of Jerusalem.
At the beginning of the year 2013, the operation of undercover Israeli agents within the West Bank came to light once again. On January 1, soldiers dressed as vegetable vendors arrested Murad Bani Odeh, a member of the Islamic Jihad political party in the West Bank village of Tamoun, south of Jenin.

Ynet news reported that Muhammad Basharat, the local village council head said that the soldiers entered the village in a van bearing a Palestinian license plate, adding that the men inside it did not arouse anyone's suspicion. Israeli media reported that the soldiers were part of Israel's Mistaarvim, or 'Arabized' elite undercover unit.

Little is known about the internal operations of the Israeli undercover units. The group 'Mistaarvim' in Hebrew or "Musta'rabeen" in Arabic is an undercover unit whose members serve in various sections of the Israeli army. Translated from Hebrew it literally means 'Arab pretenders.'

The Mistaarvim are an elite branch of a supposed 'counter-terrorism' unit who impersonate Palestinians and infiltrate West Bank communities in an attempt to find information that may be of interest to the Israeli government. Members are indistinguishable amongst Palestinian communities, as they dress the same way Palestinians do, speak Arabic in the local dialect, and drive cars with Palestinian licensed number plates. According to a study by the Palestinian Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC), disguises include stage props such as crutches and fake babies, with members undergoing extensive training on cultural habits to help them blend in successfully.


Retrial of Egypt's Mubarak and sons set for April 13

Hosni Mubarak
© Agence France-Presse / Khaled Desouki
Hosni Mubarak
Cairo - An Egyptian court set the date on Sunday for a retrial of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, his sons and top aides, ordering the politically fraught hearings over the killing of protesters to start just nine days before parliamentary elections next month.

Mubarak, who was toppled in a popular revolt in 2011, was jailed for life for ordering the killing of demonstrators, but was later granted a retrial by a Cairo court. The 84-year-old is now being treated in a military hospital.

His sons and other figures have also faced charges of corruption and squandering public funds, due to be reheard.

"Samir Abu el Maati, the head of the Appeals Court has set April 13 as the retrial date for former President Hosni Mubarak, his two sons Gamal and Alaa and his interior minister Habib el-Adly and six of his top aides ... on charges of killing of protesters during the January 25th revolution," MENA state news agency said.


Foreigners arrested for trying to spread Christianity in Libya

© newvision
Four foreigners have been arrested in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on suspicion of being Christian missionaries and printing books about Christianity, a security official said on Saturday.

"They were arrested on Tuesday at a publishing house where they were printing thousands of books that called for conversion to Christianity," security official Hussein Bin Hmeid said.

"Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100 percent Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security."

Eye 1

Egyptian Copts in Libya allegedly detained, tortured following 'missionising' claims


Photos published on Facebook of detained Copts in Libya accused of proselytisation.
Scores of Egyptian Coptic Christians are detained, abused by Salafists in Benghazi after being accused of proselytising, says Coptic Church source

Activists in Libya on Thursday posted photographs on Facebook allegedly portraying Egyptian Coptic-Christians detained in Libya on charges of proselytising.

The activists asserted that the images would also be sent to the United Nations, the Egyptian embassy in Libya, the Egyptian foreign affairs ministry, the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, in hopes that "action would be taken to secure their release."

According to a source from Egypt's Coptic Church, a group of Salafist Muslims attacked a church in Benghazi this week and detained roughly 100 Egyptian Copts working in the country.

The detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, the source - who preferred anonymity - told Ahram Online.


Mass arrest and torture of Christians in Libya

Last week's news of four Christian missionaries in Libya placed under arrest, possibly facing the death penalty for "proselytizing," is apparently the tip of the iceberg. Yesterday, Arabic media reported that over 100 Christian Copts from Egypt, who have been living and working in Libya, were recently arrested in Ben Ghazi - also on the accusation, or pretext, of being "Christian missionaries."

One video, apparently made by the Libyan militia interrogators - most of whom look like Islamic Salafis, with long beards and clipped mustaches - appeared on the Internet yesterday. It shows a room full of detained Copts. They sit hunched over on the floor - with all their hair shaven off, looking like dejected, or doomed, concentration camp prisoners. According to one source, many of these Copts have been tortured. Some have had the famous Coptic cross often tattooed on the wrists of Copts burned off with acid.

Next, the camera-man zooms in on the material which got them in this predicament: atop a table, several Bibles, prayer books, and pictures of Jesus, Mary and other saints appear spread out. The Libyan interrogators being video-taped complain about how these Christians could dare bring such material into Libya, and that they, their abductors, are sure that the Copts were going to such Christian materials to proselytize Libya, to sporadic ejaculations of "Allah Akbar!" from across the room.