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U.S. keeps shooting itself in the foot with ridiculous sanctions! U.S. should send astronauts to space station by trampoline: Russian official

Screen capture from NASA TV of the Soyuz approaching the International Space Station with the Expedition 35/36 crew.
Facing sanctions from the United States government, a high-ranking Russian official took to Twitter today (April 29) to express his frustration, warning that NASA has few options should Soyuz flights to the International Space Station cease.

"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline," wrote Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's deputy prime minister, in a Russian-language tweet highlighted by NBC News.

Snakes in Suits

Insurance policies pertaining to bankers' suicides classified - contain 'trade secrets'

© AFP Photo / John Moore
After a recent rash of mysterious apparent suicides shook the financial world, researchers are scrambling to find answers about what really is the reason behind these multiple deaths. Some observers have now come to a rather shocking conclusion.

Wall Street on Parade bloggers Pam and Russ Martens wrote this week that something seems awry regarding the bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) policies held by JPMorgan Chase. Traditional life insurance policies ensure that the loved ones of the deceased are compensated fairly in the event of a death, but banks are investing billions in policies that let them receive untaxed payment with the passing of each employee. While it's not unusual for major banks to take out policies that compensate companies in the event of an employee death, the Martens wrote, attempts to find out more about that practice have been peculiarly hard and have raised a red flag among bloggers like those at Wall Street on Parade.


Afghanistan's 'torturer in chief', Haji Gulalai, settles down in California with a dozen of his relatives thanks to CIA connections

© AFP Photo / John Macdougall
Kandahar Governor Gul Agha's chief of intelligence, Gulalai
Recruited to help run Afghanistan's security and intelligence operations in the aftermath of the US war against the Taliban, the country's most feared security official dubbed 'torturer in chief' now has settled in a pink two-story house in California.

Before his move to the US, Gulalai helped American troops retake Kandahar in 2001 and was tapped to run the intelligence program in the city. Later, he was put in charge of the long-term custody of prisoners at the National Directorate of Security's headquarters in Kabul.

According to a new report by the Washington Post, Haji Gulalai has "a substantial record of human rights abuses." On two separate occasions, United Nations officials convinced the NDS to set in motion orders to fire him from the agency, yet those efforts were stymied both times by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"He was the torturer in chief," a senior Western diplomat, who was unnamed, told the Post.


Losing Russia: The West's hypocrisy in Ukraine

When it comes to Ukraine the US and the EU are adopting a holier than thou attitude which, unfortunately, leads them not to worship at the alter of truth.

Take the issue of the fuss made over alleged soldiers wearing Russian uniforms. They are not dressed in the smart fatigues of the unmarked Russian soldiers in Crimea, about which President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged he misled us.

What these soldiers, leading the Russian-speaking revolt, are wearing can be bought in any army surplus store. As for the photos Western intelligence has persuaded much of the media to use as evidence, they are hazy and would not be admissible in a court of law.

The Ukranian Security Agency announced that it captured 20 of its Russian counterparts. But then it reduced the number to 10 and then to 3. But the last figure received much less highlighting from Western governments and media than the first.

Comment: The United States is clearly pursuing a self-defeating course in the Ukraine. The question is why? Is the foreign policy of the United States controlled by forces that do not have the best interests of the United States at heart? If so, whose interests? And what are those interests?


Putin: Washington behind Ukraine events all along

© AFP Photo/Alexey Druzhinin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk, on April 29, 2014.
The US has been behind the Ukrainian crisis from the beginning, but was initially flying low, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said. He added that if sanctions continue, Russia will have to reconsider who has access to key sectors of its economy.

"I think what is happening now shows us who really was mastering the process from the beginning. But in the beginning, the United States preferred to remain in the shadow," Putin said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Putin stated that since the US has taken a lead role in resolving the political crisis in Ukraine, it is "telling that they originally were behind this process, but now they just have emerged as leaders" of it.

The "Maidan cookies" policy paves the way to a broader crisis, Putin warned, referring to US officials showing up in central Kiev and encouraging protesters during demonstrations.

"It is necessary to understand that the situation is serious and try to find serious approaches to the solution," he said.

Putin said that he has called on Kiev to start an all-Ukrainian dialogue, adding that other countries should not be blamed for the crisis.

"[They should] treat equally the rights of those living in other areas of Ukraine, first of all, I mean, the east and southeast, establish a dialogue, find a compromise," he told journalists while speaking about the measures necessary to put an end to the crisis. "Here's what you need to do; searching for the guilty outside Ukraine is wrong."

Star of David

What destruction of Israel? The demonization of Hamas

When, in response to the threat of potential Palestinian reconciliation and unity, the Israeli government suspended "negotiations" with the Palestine Liberation Organization on April 24 (five days before they were due to terminate in any event), Prime Minister Netanyahu's office issued a statement asserting: "Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel."

In a series of related media appearances, Mr. Netanyahu hammered repeatedly on the "destruction of Israel" theme as a way of blaming Palestine for the predictable failure of the latest round of the seemingly perpetual "peace process".

The extreme subjectivity of the epithet "terrorist" has been highlighted by two recent absurdities - the Egyptian military regime's labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has won all Egyptian elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, as a "terrorist" organization and the labeling by the de facto Ukrainian authorities, who came to power through illegally occupying government buildings in Kiev, of those opposing them by illegally occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine as "terrorists". In both cases, those who have overthrown democratically elected governments are labeling those who object to their coups as "terrorists".

It is increasingly understood that the word "terrorist", which has no agreed definition, is so subjective as to be devoid of any inherent meaning and that it is commonly abused by governments and others who apply it to whomever or whatever they hate in the hope of demonizing their adversaries, thereby discouraging and avoiding rational thought and discussion and, frequently, excusing their own illegal and immoral behavior.

Star of David

Israel halts peace talks over Palestinian reconciliation deal

© Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Head of the Hamas government Ismail Haniyeh and senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed attend a news conference as they announce a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City on April 23, 2014.

Read more: http://www.jta.org/2014/04/29/news-opinion/united-states/after-peace-talks-collapse-experts-counsel-a-wait-and-see-approach#ixzz30Kesprxu
Israel has reacted with fury to the "reconciliation" deal agreed on last week between the rival Palestinian bourgeois parties, Fatah and the Muslim Brotherhood Hamas.

Speaking on Sunday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a halt to the so-called peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas unless he "tears up" the pact with Hamas.

Fatah and Hamas had agreed to form an interim unity government in the next five weeks and to fix a date for elections later this year.

The deal was negotiated by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas's politburo, and Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah central committee member, following informal talks in Cairo between Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) delegates and Marzouk. Discussions were also held in Qatar, a major sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, and with European officials.


Bank of America's $4 billion bookkeeping error: May not have adequate capital

© Spencer Platt / Getty Images/ AFP
America's biggest bank discovered a $4 billion accounting error on Monday, and is suspending its share buyback program and planned quarterly dividend. The mistake went unnoticed for several years and brings into question how 'healthy' Bank of America is.

After reporting the miscalculation to the Federal Reserve, Bank of America will also have to re-do its stress tests, to ensure it isn't "too big" and has sufficient capital reserves, the New York Times reports.

Stocks have fallen 6.27 percent on the news, the most since November 2012. Shares tumbled to $14.95 by market close in New York on Monday, erasing all of the 2014 gains.

The error was sourced to Merrill Lynch, where lower-level employees botched the numbers they submit to the financial authorities for a quarterly securities filing. The gaffe also went undiscovered by the bank's board of directors as well as PricewaterhouseCoopers, its external auditor. The US Federal Reserve also missed the blunder.

Alarm Clock

EU 'should be ashamed' for toeing Washington's line against Russia

© Reuters / Jim Bourg
European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded with a scathing statement to the EU's new round of sanctions against Russia, saying Europe apparently has no insight into the political situation in Ukraine.

"Instead of forcing the Kiev clique to sit down with south-eastern Ukraine to negotiate the country's future political system, our partners are toeing Washington's line to take more unfriendly gestures towards Russia," the statement declared.

"If somebody in Brussels hopes to stabilize the situation in Ukraine by this, it is evidence of a total lack of understanding of the internal political situation in that country and invites local neo-Nazis to continue their lawlessness and thuggery towards the peaceful civilians of the south-east," the statement said. "Are you not ashamed?"

Star of David

Outrageous! Israeli troops destroy mosque in Palestinian village

© Reuters / Mohamad Torokman
Palestinians walk past a structure after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Khirbet Al-Taweel village near the West Bank City of Nablus April 29, 2014.
Israeli bulldozers have demolished a mosque and several homes in a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, leaving up to 30 people homeless on the deadline of the peace talks between Palestine and Israel.

Eighteen Israeli military jeeps and two bulldozers stormed the village of Kherbt al-Taweel near Nablus, to the north of the West Bank early on Tuesday morning and declared the village a closed military zone, Ghassan Douglas, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told the Anadolu Agency (AA).

He added that before demolishing the buildings "the forces prevented residents from entering or leaving the village and students from going to their school."

"I went to make my dawn prayers at the mosque and found the army surrounding it," resident Abdel Fattah Maarouf, 63, told Reuters, "Then they tore it down. They want this area so they can build settlements on it."