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Fri, 08 Dec 2023
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Putin Party Suffers Big Decline in Russia

Vladimir Putin
© unknown
Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party suffered a big decline in Russia's parliamentary election on Sunday, winning less than half of votes cast, according to the two biggest exit polls published after voting closed.

According to the poll from state pollster VTsIOM, Putin's United Russia party won 48.5 percent of the vote followed by the Communists with 19.8 percent, LDPR with 11.4 percent and Just Russia with 12.8 percent.

An exit poll by FOM shown on state television showed United Russia won 46 percent, a result which the pollster projected would give the party just 220 of the 450 State Duma seats, far below the 315 seats it won in the last election in 2007.


Italian Government Approves Austerity Measures

Mario Monti
© The Associated Press/Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti
Premier Mario Monti said his government of technocrats has approved a package of austerity and growth measures worth euro30 billion ($40.53 billion) to "reawaken" the Italian economy and help save the euro common currency from collapse.

The measures include immediate cuts to the costs of maintaining Italy's bulky political class as well as significant measures to fight tax evasion, Monti told a news conference following a three-hour Cabinet meeting.

As part of the political cost cuts, Monti said he would forego his salaries as premier and finance minister - a move he said was a personal decision and not meant as an example for other ministers in the government, which was formed 2 1/2 weeks ago after Premier Silvio Berlusconi's resignation under market and political pressure.

The package also includes measures to spur growth and competition, while aiming to stamp out rampant nepotism. But it also raises the retirment age and the number of years of service to qualify for a full pension, steps strongly opposed by unions, and imposes new taxes on Italians' private wealth, including their homes, boats and luxury cars, measures that conservatives have protested.


New Nicolas Sarkozy link to hotel in IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn 'rape' storm

© Sipa Press / Rex Features
Close bond: French President Nicolas Sarkozy with multi-millionaire Sebastien Bazin
New details have emerged of links between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the hotel where former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a maid.

Until his arrest in May, Mr Strauss-Kahn was the frontrunner to defeat Mr Sarkozy in presidential elections next year.

The sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo - which Mr Strauss-Kahn says was consensual - took place at the New York Sofitel, which is owned by hotel giant Accor.

One of Accor's senior directors has had a close bond with the French president since Mr Sarkozy - then the mayor of a prosperous Paris suburb - helped rescue his three-year-old daughter from a school siege.

Sebastien Bazin's daughter, Fleur, was one of 21 children taken hostage at their nursery in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Gunman Erick Schmitt threatened to detonate dynamite - which he had attached to his body and planted in the doors and corners of the classroom - unless he was paid a ransom.

Comment: For a more interesting outlook on this case, read What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?

Red Flag

U.S. Official Says No Sign Iran Shot Down Drone

US drone
© unknown
An RQ-170 American drone has been shot down in eastern Iran
Iranian media reported on Sunday that their country's military had shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran, but a U.S. official said there was no indication the aircraft had been shot down.

NATO's U.S.-led mission in neighbouring Afghanistan said the Iranian report could refer to an unarmed U.S. spy drone that went missing there last week.

The incident comes at a time when Tehran is trying to contain foreign outrage at the storming of the British embassy on Tuesday, after London announced sanctions on Iran's central bank in connection with Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.

Iran has announced several times in the past that it shot down U.S., Israeli or British drones, in incidents that did not provoke high-profile responses.

"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted a military source as saying.

Bad Guys

Rejecting Apology, U.S. May Hasten End of Pakistan as Client

Pakistani protesters
© Reuters/Akhtar Soomro
President Barack Obama has sided with U.S. military and Defense Department officials in rejecting a proposal by the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan for a U.S. apology for last weekend's attack on two Pakistani border posts, and approving an investigation into the attack that won't be completed until Dec. 23 at the earliest.

The White House and the military bloc are gambling that the lengthy investigation into the attack that killed 25 Pakistani troops will defuse popular Pakistani anger and that final report will allow the Obama administration to return to a more aggressive policy toward Pakistan in 2012.

But the course Obama has chosen is likely to further aggravate the anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan that has boiled over in response to the violation of Pakistani sovereignty and unprecedented number of deaths of Pakistani troops. U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and State Department officials are seriously concerned that the rejection of any acknowledgement of U.S. responsibility for nearly three weeks will push Pakistan further toward a potentially irreversible break in relations with the United States.


Terrorists Have Won: Treason in the US Senate

Danny Panzella sits in for Gary Franchi and reports on the treasonous act committed by the US Senate by passing the Indefinite Detention Bill. Panzella also reports on Wall Streets Private Army and the Big Brother Banksters.

Black Cat

Arrest Bush, says Amnesty International


Former US President George W. Bush
Amnesty International has urged African nations to arrest former US President George W. Bush during his visit to the continent this month.

"International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed," senior legal advisor for Amnesty International, Matt Pollard said.

According to the international rights group, African nations have the obligation to bring Bush to justice for his role in war crimes, Reuters reported.

This is while Bush's stay in Africa is aimed at raising awareness of cervical and breast cancers, as well as HIV/AIDS.

Last month, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal found Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair guilty of committing crimes against humanity during the Iraq war.


US: Mayor Bloomberg Says 'I Have My Own Army'

© Getty
Mayor Bloomberg
In a speech at MIT last night to discuss the packed sweepstakes to build a tech campus in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg said he prefers City Hall to the White House. Almost immediately after Mayor Bloomberg dampened recent speculation he's eyeing a White House bid, he added fuel to the fire by explaining why a mayor would be the best person for the job.

Mayor Bloomberg's recent criticism of President Obama for allowing the debt reduction Supercommittee to fail led many political tea leaf watchers to believe he's eyeing a potential White House bid. To the dismay of those who hope he'll mount presidential campaign, Mayor Bloomberg began his speech last night by discussing why City Hall is just fine by him.


It Must be Nice Being President... Obama to Jet off to Hawaii for a Seventeen Day Christmas Vacation

© Boston Globe/Getty Images
Taking it easy: President Obama, pictured playing golf, has announced he will take off more than two weeks to visit Hawaii with his wife and daughters
While most Americans are lucky to get a few weeks of holiday every year, it seems the country's leader gets a little more freedom in the matter.

President Barack Obama has announced his Christmas vacation to Hawaii - for a staggering 17-day trip.

Obama, who visited the island just two weeks ago for an economic summit, will head to Honolulu on Saturday December 17 until Monday January 2.

The president, who was raised in Hawaii until he was six, will be joined by his wife Michelle and their daughters, Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10.

The White House travel office announced the president has no public events scheduled for the trip.

The President's family covers the cost of a private beach front residence in Kailua, Oahu, for their vacation - a 'Winter White House' that costs up to $3,500 a day, or $75,000 a month.

But the local and federal taxpayers help pay the bill for travel and security.


US: Justice Department Reveals Origins of False Gun Letter To Grassley

© Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Eric Holder on the hot seat concerning Project Gunwalker during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Justice Department released documents today detailing how officials prepared a Feb. 4 letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that Attorney General Eric Holder has since admitted contained false information about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun operation under investigation by Congress.

The documents show that Dennis Burke, then a U.S. attorney who has since resigned, and William Hoover, then the deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who has since been reassigned, principally provided the false information to officials who drafted the letter. But the documents do not shed light on whether either knew the information was false at the time.

In the Feb. 4 letter, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich broadly denied that ATF officials had allowed assault weapons to "walk," which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels, allowing the guns to escape into the wild. "ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico," Weich wrote.

Grassley's allegations about Fast and Furious, later revealed to be true, "are based on categorical falsehoods," Burke wrote in a Jan. 31 email. Faith Burton, a Justice Department official who drafted an early version of the letter, took notes based on a phone conversation with Hoover that read, "ATF doesn't let guns walk."