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Security alert raised to highest level in Midi-Pyrenees region (France) after school shooting

(This alert has been modified to upgrade its urgency level.)

PARIS, March 19, 2012 (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday he was putting the country's southwestern Midi-Pyrenees region on "scarlet" alert, the highest terror level, after the deadly school shootings in Toulouse.

It is the first time the level had been applied since the creation of France's current system of terror alerts -- Vigipirate -- in the 1990s and is the last step before the declaration of a state of emergency.

It gives authorities widespread power to disrupt daily life and implement sweeping security measures.

The move came after a scooter-riding gunman shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse and police said the same gun and scooter had been used in the murders of three French paratroopers in the same area earlier this month.

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Swiss Judge Resigns From Court Trying Khmer Rouge

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© The Associated Press/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nhet Sok HengKaing Guek Eav, centre, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng prison, appears during testimony at the UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, March 19, 2012.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia - A Swiss judge has resigned from the U.N.-backed tribunal prosecuting Khmer Rouge war crimes, a move Amnesty International blames on the Cambodian government's interference with the court's efforts to seek justice for victims of the 1970s atrocities.

Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet said Monday that he will step down in May because a Cambodian counterpart has opposed his investigations of new suspects. He said the conflict has created "a dysfunctional situation" on the court, which is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or torture during the communist regime's rule.

In a statement Tuesday, Amnesty International called the latest resignation "a significant setback."

The former regime's chief jailer is in prison and three of its leaders are on trial, but Cambodia's leadership opposes extending prosecutions to more Khmer Rouge figures, some of whom have become political allies. The country's powerful ruler, Prime Minister Hun Sen, has publicly chided and threatened the tribunal several times.

"The victims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities must be feeling utter despair," said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher. "The U.N. must demand that the Cambodian government desists from this political interference, and make clear the consequences should it continue."

Kasper-Ansermet had replaced German judge Siegfried Blunk, who left in October, also citing government interference. Human Rights Watch, though, had accused Blunk of failing to conduct genuine and impartial research beyond the one suspect convicted last year and the top Khmer Rouge leaders currently on trial in the second case to go before the court.

Attention

Another Hidden Bailout: Helping Wall Street Collect Your Rent

Foreclosures
© Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesA foreclosure sign sits in front of a home for sale in Stockton, California.

Here's yet another form of hidden bailout the federal government doles out to our big banks, without the public having much of a clue.

This is from the WSJ this morning:
Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are lining up to become landlords to cash-strapped Americans by bidding on pools of foreclosed properties being sold by Fannie Mae...

While the current approach of selling homes one-by-one has its own high costs and is sometimes inefficient, selling properties in bulk to large investors could require Fannie Mae to sell at a big discount, leading to larger initial costs.
In con artistry parlance, they call this the "reload." That's when you hit the same mark twice - typically with a second scam designed to "fix" the damage caused by the first scam. Someone robs your house, then comes by the next day and sells you a fancy alarm system, that's the reload.

In this case, banks pumped up the real estate market by creating huge volumes of subprime loans, then dumped a lot of them on, among others, Fannie and Freddie, the ever-ready enthusiastic state customer. Now the loans have crashed in value, yet the GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprises) are still out there feeding the banks money through two continuous bailouts.

Star of David

Israel Targets Palestinian Solar Panels in Bid for West Bank Dominance

Palestinian mother & child @ solar panel
© n/a
Hundreds of Palestinians will be left without electricity should Israel's order for the demolition of 8 solar panels in the West Bank go ahead, in what many say is an attempt to drive Palestinians out of the Israeli-controlled part of the territory.

­"We are suspended between heaven and earth; the solar panels were a glimmer of hope for us," Ali Mohamed Ihrizat, the village head of Imenizil, one of the places where the solar panels are scheduled to be demolished, told Agence France-Presse.

The panels were constructed by international charities, but the Israeli authorities say they were built without permission.

Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israeli military, has explained the decision: "Using the backing of international assistance does not give immunity to violations."

This is just the latest standoff in Area C - a festering flashpoint of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict where the battles are fought not with guns and rockets, but permits and bulldozers.

Bad Guys

Climate + World Governance is a Match Made in Green Heaven

Protesting for world climate governance
© 350.orgProtesting for world climate governance - Manhattan Beach, USA.
To be effective, a new set of institutions would have to be imbued with heavy-handed, transnational enforcement powers.

Skeptics get scoffed at when we say the burdensome regulations that have been and have been sought to be imposed by the alarm over global warming are just a tool to secure a larger governance control. In today's society, if you control how energy is generated, used, and taxed, you pretty much control the modern world. People will do almost anything to keep that computer, iPhone, and electric heat and appliances.

Now in Scientific American, one writer just lays it all out for us to see, pulling no punches.
Effective World Government Will Be Needed to Stave Off Climate Catastrophe

Almost six years ago, I was the editor of a single-topic issue on energy for Scientific American that included an article by Princeton University's Robert Socolow that set out a well-reasoned plan for how to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below a planet-livable threshold of 560 ppm.
...

If I had it to do over, I'd approach the issue planning differently, my fellow editors permitting. I would scale back on the nuclear fusion and clean coal, instead devoting at least half of the available space for feature articles on psychology, sociology, economics and political science. Since doing that issue, I've come to the conclusion that the technical details are the easy part. It's the social engineering that's the killer. Moon shots and Manhattan Projects are child's play compared to needed changes in the way we behave.
...

Unfortunately, far more is needed. To be effective, a new set of institutions would have to be imbued with heavy-handed, transnational enforcement powers. There would have to be consideration of some way of embracing head-in-the-cloud answers to social problems that are usually dismissed by policymakers as academic naivete. In principle, species-wide alteration in basic human behaviors would be a sine qua non, but that kind of pronouncement also profoundly strains credibility in the chaos of the political sphere. Some of the things that would need to be contemplated: How do we overcome our hard-wired tendency to "discount" the future: valuing what we have today more than what we might receive tomorrow? Would any institution be capable of instilling a permanent crisis mentality lasting decades, if not centuries? How do we create new institutions with enforcement powers way beyond the current mandate of the U.N.? Could we ensure against a malevolent dictator who might abuse the power of such organizations?
Read it all here.

Blackbox

Questions mount over US account of Afghanistan massacre

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© ABC NewsStaff Sgt. Robert Bales Identified as Suspect in Afghan Massacre
Within 48 hours of the Pentagon's confirming the identity of the US soldier arrested for the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, there are mounting questions about the official explanation of the bloody events of March 11.

Nearly every fact asserted by US officials in Kabul and Washington has been challenged, either by the villagers where the massacre took place, by the Karzai government in Afghanistan, or by those acquainted with the arrested soldier, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38.

The most important questions are those raised by the villagers who survived the rampage. They have been repeatedly quoted, both in Afghan government accounts and in reports published in the international press, as describing several uniformed American soldiers participating in the bloodbath, not the lone gunman described by the Pentagon.

In a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Friday, relatives of the victims reiterated their claims of multiple gunmen. Karzai told reporters, "They believe it's not possible for one person to do that," referring to the multiple killings in two adjacent villages in Kandahar province. "In four rooms, people were killed, women and children were killed, and they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That, one man cannot do."

Magnify

10 Myths About Iran - And Why They're Dead Wrong

Iranian flag
© Shutterstock
Here's the truth about Iran

As media reports continue to imply that a military confrontation with Iran is closer than ever, rhetoric demonizing the Iranian government is rampant, particularly among Israeli leaders and most Republican presidential candidates - so much so that former Israeli Mossad director Efraim Halevy recently complained that Mitt Romney is "making the [Iran] situation worse" with his statements.

So it should come as no surprise that according to a 2012 Gallup poll, Iran is Americans' "least favored nation" and has consistently ranked unfavorably since 1989. Gallup is not specific about why an overwhelming majority of respondents have such a low "overall opinion" of the Islamic Republic, but they suggest that "heavy scrutiny and criticism from the West over its nuclear programs" sheds light on American reasoning. Alarmist notions about Iran's foreign and nuclear policy that spread through the media perpetuate a negative image that is oftentimes inaccurate--and help pave the path to war, which experts say would have disastrous consequences for Israel, the broader Middle East and the U.S.

AlterNet decided to look at 10 myths about Iran, many of them created by these alarmist notions - and explain why they're dead wrong.

Chess

Is ABC LYING? Russian Anti-Terror Troops Arrive in Syria

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© Unknown
A Russian military unit has arrived in Syria, according to Russian news reports, a development that a United Nations Security Council source told ABC News was "a bomb" certain to have serious repercussions.


Comment: Actually, there are no such "Russian News Reports". What we do find are Russian re-reports of the same propaganda (here for example), which appears in part to have originated with Al Arabiya, the statement attributed to unnamed 'opposition sources'. Where we also read: "Israeli-based open source military intelligence website DEBKAfile has also reported that two Russian naval vessels have anchored at the Syrian port of Tartus."

Here is the full text from DEBKAfile:
A Russian ship carrying marines anchors at Tartus, Syria
DEBKAfile March 19, 2012, 6:00 PM (GMT+02:00)

Two Russian naval vessels have anchored at the Syrian port of Tartus, Russian Black Sea headquarters at Sevastopol reports. Their mission and identifies were not disclosed, excepting that one was carrying a unit of "anit-terrorist marines" and the other, a military tanker which joined "a Russian naval reconnaissance and surveillance ship already tied up in Tartus."
Read the last two paragraphs of this article carefully and decide if ABC has joined the Pentagon Propaganda Program.


Russia, one of President Bashar al-Assad's strongest allies despite international condemnation of the government's violent crackdown on the country's uprising, has repeatedly blocked the United Nations Security Council's attempts to halt the violence, accusing the U.S. and its allies of trying to start another war.

Now the Russian Black Sea fleet's Iman tanker has arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea with an anti-terror squad from the Russian Marines aboard according to the Interfax news agency. The Assad government has insisted it is fighting a terrorist insurgency. The Russian news reports did not elaborate on the Russian troops' mission in Syria or if they are expected to leave the port.

Vader

Terrorist Tyke? TSA Pats Down Toddler in Wheelchair


2 + 2 = 4

SOTT Focus: Sarkozy's Backers To Use Toulouse Attacks To Steal French Election - UPDATE!

[Author Note] As this is a developing story, updates are posted at the end of the article:

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Sarkozy speaking in Toulouse, March 19th 2012. A 'strong leader in a crisis'. But who is behind the crisis?
French President Sarkozy's 2012 re-election bid has been faltering almost since he was 'elected' in 2007. Long viewed by a majority of the French public as a latter-day Napoleon wannabe, some were perplexed as to how he won the 2007 presidential race, given that one year before the election, opinion polls placed him a definite second, and between then and the election he did nothing to justify his alleged increase in popularity, with his 'Bling Bling' approach to electioneering turning the stomachs of many French people. In addition, within a few months of his 'victory' in May 2007, Sarkozy's popularity had plummeted to around 30% as people reacted to his austere economic reforms, on which he had openly campaigned, mind you. How to explain such a sudden turnaround so soon after his victory? It was only on election day that, somehow, the diminutive son of a Hungarian immigrant and his 'princes of Paris' were gifted 5 years in the Elysee palace.