Puppet MastersS

R2-D2

Propaganda: Elusive ex-commando to replace bin Laden?

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© Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty ImagesIlyas Kashmiri once told a reporter that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were “nothing compared to what has already been planned for the future.”
A Pakistani former commando who has been linked to multiple terror plots - including a series of planned "Mumbai style" attacks in European cities last summer - has emerged as a possible successor to Osama bin Laden as leader of al-Qaida, according to U.S. officials.

Although Ilyas Kashmiri is barely known to the American public, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have increasingly focused on him in recent years. The CIA has targeted him in drone attacks in northwest Pakistan and federal prosecutors have indicted him in a major terrorism case involving a Chicago businessman who goes on trial next week.

An elusive figure who often wears heavily tinted aviator glasses, Kashmiri remains at large and active in plotting new attacks against the West, U.S. officials say. It was Kashmiri who, according to U.S. officials, was the key figure behind a suspected plot for multiple attacks in European cities, patterned after the 2008 Mumbai terror strike, which led to a widely publicized State Department travel advisory in October.

While Ayman al-Zawahri remains the "presumed" successor to bin Laden, the longtime al-Qaida deputy is deeply unpopular in some circles and his elevation is by no means guaranteed, a senior U.S. official told reporters this weekend. If al-Zawahri doesn't make it, Kashmiri may emerge as the dark horse in the ensuing power struggle, the official told NBC on Monday.

Comment: Just when the world thought it safe to look under the bed..


Black Cat

'Bin Laden dead long before US raid'

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© UnknownIran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi
Iran's intelligence minister says the country has reliable information that former head of the al-Qaeda terrorist group Osama bin Laden died of disease some time ago.

"We have accurate information that bin Laden died of illness some time ago," Heidar Moslehi told reporters on the sidelines of a Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

He questioned Washington's claim that bin Laden was killed by American troops in a hiding compound in Pakistan on May 1.

"If the US military and intelligence apparatus have really arrested or killed bin Laden, why don't they show him (his dead body) why have they thrown his corpse into the sea?" Moslehi asked.

"When we apprehended [former Jundallah ringleader Abdul Malik] Rigi, we showed him and also aired his interview," ISNA quoted the intelligence chief as saying.

By releasing such false news, he said, the White House seeks to overshadow regional awakening.

Gear

Billionaire's role in hiring decisions at Florida State University raises questions

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© Unknown
A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university.

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University's economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting "political economy and free enterprise."

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they've funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it's not happy with the faculty's choice or if the hires don't meet "objectives" set by Koch during annual evaluations.

Bad Guys

The Birthers Become 'Deathers'

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© Reuters / Parivartan SharmaA member of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) gestures in front of a portrait of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a pro-U.S. rally as the group celebrates bin Laden's killing, in Noida in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh May 5, 2011. U.S. officials sought to keep a lid on growing scepticism over Washington's version of events around bin Laden's death, insisting the al Qaeda leader was killed during a firefight in the compound in Pakistan where he was hiding
Birthers who claimed President Obama was not born in the U.S. have moved on to another wild conspiracy theory: that Osama bin Laden was not really killed last Sunday - or was killed to shut him up, and then quickly buried at sea.

Osama bin Laden's death couldn't have come at a better time for the birthers, those who believe that President Obama was born in Kenya, or Indonesia, or renounced his citizenship, or for various other reasons is ineligible for office. Obama had just held an exasperated press conference in which he released his long-form birth certificate, and chided the nation to get back to more serious work.

Launching the operation to kill the al Qaeda leader could be taken as an example of just the sort of serious duties lawmakers ought to be busy dealing with. Or, with its hasty ocean burial and lack of photographic evidence, it could be seen as just a bit too convenient.

That latter is how birther activist, lawyer, and dentist Orly Taitz took the news. "Perfect timing!" Taitz exclaimed on her site. "Our court hearing is scheduled to start in just a few hours. Major networks are supposed to be there with cameras rolling. Suddenly, Obama announces that the body of Osama Bin Ladin [sic] is found and we need to prepare for a possible terrorist act." She cited a rumor that bin Laden had been killed years ago and his corpse kept on ice, ready to be rolled out when a diversion was needed. The theory has been around for years, but promptly popped up again on May 1, when Alex Jones posted it on his site, InfoWars, also noting that it "follows the release of a highly suspicious birth certificate." Soon, people like Taitz and Jones had a name: the deathers.

Andy Martin, who is as close as a movement like the birthers comes to having a founder, says conspiracy peddlers like Taitz and Jones are ridiculous. He wants to redirect them to his new movement, which he prefers be called the doubters.

"You have to ask who he's covering for, if they had interrogated him, what he would have dropped in addition to those hard drives."

Vader

Barack Obama has emerged looking like a cold-blooded killer - and it turns America on

Obama
© BloombergBarack Obama in the Situation Room on Sunday
We got him! From the White House Situation Room to the storm-struck towns of northern Alabama, the triumphant cry went up on Sunday night: America had found its number one enemy. And Barack Obama had fulfilled a promise.

Before Osama bin Laden was killed, the president's critics liked to portray Obama as a wimp. From radio shock jocks to Fox news, they branded him a bookish academic who hid behind his desk. He was comfortable on a university campus, or working as a "community organiser" - but not when dealing with folks in Baghdad, Kabul, or Islamabad. Obama preferred thoughtful seminars to action, ran the myth, and he would never make Americans proud.

How they must be eating their words now. As of last Sunday, the world knows that this man can kick ass when he wants to. A political Clark Kent, Barack Obama has emerged from the commando raid in Pakistan looking like an action hero. There are hints of ruthless cold-bloodedness in those White House photos. The raid played out like a cowboy film starring John Wayne, where the hero is a man of few words but deadly action.

Arrow Down

Colin Powell: Obama blew away the birthers

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© The Associated Press / /The Times and Democrat, Christopher HuffFormer Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell speaks during a ceremony inducting him as an honorary member of South Carolina State University's Army ROTC Hall of Fame Friday, May 6, 2011, on the school's campus in Orangeburg, S.C. Powell credits his time in ROTC at City College of New York with helping shape his military career.
Colin Powell told graduates of South Carolina's premier historically black university that they were graduating during a tumultuous time that saw a royal wedding, a pope's beatification and a U.S. military assault that killed Osama bin Laden, "the worst person on earth."

But the former secretary of state and Joint Chiefs chairman told South Carolina State University's 400 graduates on Friday that he particularly enjoyed another recent event: "That was when President Obama took out his birth certificate and blew away Donald Trump and all the birthers!"

The stadium roared in approval of Powell's comments on the president's move last week to quell the doubts of those who don't believe he was born in Hawaii. The retired Army four-star general endorsed Obama's 2008 presidential bid.

Earlier Friday, Powell was made an honorary member of the school's ROTC hall of fame.

Attention

Syria: Assad to escape European sanctions

European Union diplomats agreed to impose sanctions on 13 top Syrian officials, but not on President Bashar al-Assad, even as thousands defied a formidable miliary presence to protest against the regime.

On Friday, diplomats met in Brussels to discuss sanctions. The officials, who are from the country's military, its intelligence services and government, will be subject to asset freezes and travel bans. The EU has agreed to halt arm sales to Syria.

Bizarro Earth

More deaths on Syria's 'day of defiance'


Up to 30 reportedly killed in the cities of Homs and Hama, as protesters around the country take to the streets.

Activists claim that up to 30 people have been killed in Syria where thousands have taken to the streets for another day of anti-government rallies, dubbed a "day of defiance".

Human rights group Insan said that at least 16 people had been killed in the central city of Homs, six in Hama and two in Jableh. It said the total death toll was 26 but didn't specify where the other two deaths occurred.

A human rights activist told the Associated Press news agency that 30 people had died, while Syrian state television said an army officer and four police were killed in Homs by a "criminal gang".

Security forces killed four protesters in the city of Deir al-Zor, a local tribal leader told Reuters.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports because of restrictions on reporting in the country.

Vader

Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred

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© Mr. Fish
News personalities, politicians, self-appointed experts on the Muslim world, and law enforcement and intelligence officials, as well as the Christian right, have successfully demonized Muslims in the United States since the attacks of 2001. It is acceptable to say things openly about Muslims that could never be said about any other ethnic group. And as the economy continues to unravel, as we face the possibility of revenge attacks by Islamic extremists, perhaps on American soil, the plight of Muslims is beginning to mirror that of targeted ethnic minority groups on the eve of the war in the former Yugoslavia, or Jews in the dying days of the Weimar Republic.

The major candidates for the Republican nomination for the presidency, including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, along with television personalities such as Bill Maher, routinely employ hate talk against Muslims as a way to attract votes or viewers. Right-wing radio and cable news, including Christian radio and television, along with websites such as Jihad Watch and FrontPage, spew toxic filth about Muslims over the airwaves and the Internet. But perhaps most ominously - as pointed out in "Manufacturing the Muslim Menace," a report by Political Research Associates - a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training - the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative - which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic "fifth column" or "stealth jihad" is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed "Lawfare") to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.

Briefcase

"Shut up and move on", Kerry says (and stop noticing the contradictions)

Washington - Democratic Sen. John Kerry said it is time to stop questioning the exact occurrences in Osama bin Laden's house before his death in Abbottabad, Pakistan, at the hand of U.S. Navy SEALs.

"I thinks those SEALs did exactly what they should have done," the senator from Massachusetts and 2004 presidential nominee said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And we need to shut up and move on about, you know, the realities of what happened in that building."

Comment: Mr. Kerry seems to be rather upset about the idea that people are actually paying enough attention to notice that the "realities of what happened in that building" can't, under any circumstances, match the 'story' of the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Those paying attention are rather unlikely to "shut up and move on" any time soon.